Councilors worry that chickens will increase rat problemWhile it appears that members of the Cloquet City Council would like to ignore the question of raising chickens in city limits, resident Diane Lambert simply won’t let them.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
While it appears that members of the Cloquet City Council would like to ignore the question of raising chickens in city limits, resident Diane Lambert simply won’t let them. Lambert and several supporters were the lone audience members at a Cloquet City Council meeting Tuesday that did not have chickens on the agenda.
After a quick council meeting, Lambert spoke during the public comment period at the end of the meeting. While admitting that the numbers of folks wanting to raise chickens is relatively low, she pushed councilors to explain why they balked at voting on the issue a month ago.
“Is it the lack of an animal control officer, because you seem to be enforcing the law without one,” she said, rattling off possible reasons they might object to chickens. “Lot sizes, because we could consider only bigger lots? Neighbors?”
Ward 1 Councilor David Manderfeld finally broke the silence from the city’s side, expressing that enforcement is the biggest issue for him, noting that it takes time away from other duties when city staff have to enforce code violations.
“Grand Rapids has three licenses, that’s it,” Lambert responded. “Do you really believe in a city the size of Cloquet that you’re going to have that many people?”
At that point, Ward 2 Councilor David Bjerkness expressed his own concern about a different type of animal that might be attracted to the chicken feed – rats.
“We have been challenged by a rat problem in Wards 2 and 3,” Bjerkness said. “For that reason, I will not – as a councilor in a ward with tight urban lots – support the chicken ordinance.”
Ward 4 Councilor Kerry Kolodge added that he could not support using “staff time to check chicken coops and licensing.”
Lambert expressed frustration at the fact that the city had never enforced its ban on farm animals in city limits until she asked the council to change the city code.
“It feels like you’re saying all the people who were raising chickens before [in town], you turned a blind eye to,” she said, naming two different residents with chickens who have been given until the end of the month to get rid of them. “Until I brought this forward and wanted to do this legally, there was no problem.”
After the meeting ended, Lambert said she isn’t going to stop her efforts to make it legal to raise chickens in city limits.
“I know I can leave the city and move to the country – or Carlton or Esko or Duluth [where a person can legally raise chickens] and quit paying taxes to the city of Cloquet, but I like living here. I like my home,” she said, vowing to return with more information and greater efforts to educate council members.
Because there has been no vote on the resolution to amend the city code to allow chickens, a council member could reintroduce the issue for a vote or an applicant can make a formal application for a zoning ordinance amendment – which entails a fee and an application from one or more people – to be voted on by the council.
In other matters Tuesday, the Cloquet City Council:
+ Approved the hiring of an accountant to assist Finance Director Nancy Klassen.
+ Approved a multi-agency law enforcement joint powers agreement that will investigate and prosecute crimes committed against children. The task force will specifically focus on crimes committed or facilitated through the use of computers.
+ Heard a presentation during the council work session prior to the formal meeting from City Engineer Jim Prusak on the recently completely street inventory and recommended plans regarding future street and utility repairs. The council took no action; the survey is part of an effort to make a long-term plan for infrastructure improvements in Cloquet.
“Everything changed in our minds with the flood,” he told the council after explaining how they assessed the condition of 80 miles worth of streets in the city. “We have problem areas off 21st Street and Selmser Avenue … a section of pipe that collapsed on 20th Street and four or five basements filled with sewer [water].”
“There’s nothing worse than sewer backup,” he added, surmising that the areas most affected by the flooding could leapfrog to the top of the waiting list for reconstruction of utilities, sewer and street.