For the second time in a month, the Cloquet City Council discussed the possibility of allowing some residents to keep chickens.
Cloquet City Planner Al Cottingham brought up the topic during the council's March 19 work session. He said he had been contacted by one resident who wanted to keep chickens on his property.
After an ordinance allowing residents to keep chickens failed to get council enough support to even move to a vote when it was proposed in 2012, Cottingham developed a policy that was more restrictive than the first ordinance but would still allow some residents to keep chickens.
Cottingham's draft ordinance would allow residents keep up to five laying hens in the single-family residential (R1) or the suburban residential (SR) districts on lots that are at least a half-acre. The earlier ordinance didn't restrict the size of the lot or the number of chickens, but both ordinances did prohibit roosters. The council asked Cottingham to research the number of affected lots.
During the April 16 work session, Cottingham told the council he estimates there were 100 R1 lots and 200 SR lots eligible to keep chickens under the revised plan. Most of the R1 lots eligible are south of Washington Avenue in Cloquet and most of the SR lots are generally south of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and south of Big Lake Road.
Resident Deb Spears, whose Ward 2 home is zoned R1, said she supported the change even though she doubted her lot would qualify with the half-acre requirements for lots.
"I think it's a wonderful idea," Spears said.
She met regularly with a group of people at the Cloquet Public Library at the time that supported changing the ordinance, but when the 2012 proposal failed to garner support from the council, the group dissipated.
Ward 2 Councilor Sheila Lamb expressed concern over potential conflicts between chicken owners and dog owners and asked what would happen if a dog killed a chicken.
Ward 5 Councilor Steve Langley said he kept chickens for a short time more than 10 years ago and said it was more a matter of his dog getting used to being around the chickens and there was rarely a problem.
Langley - whose property is zoned farm residential - also told the Pine Journal his experience keeping chickens changed how he perceived them.
"Before I ever had chickens, I thought they were disgusting," Langley said. "But they were actually kind of fun to keep around."
Ward 4 Councilor Kerry Kolodge asked if the ordinance could be restricted even further. Kolodge proposed limiting the ordinance to half-acre R1 and SR lots that border properties zoned farm residential where chickens are already allowed. Cottingham estimated that would reduce the number of R1 lots to 10 properties and perhaps 40 in SR zoned properties. He said he wondered if it was even worth it to change the ordinance with so few affected properties.
Cottingham told the council that the resident who contacted him about changing the ordinance has a lot that would be eligible, but that the person also expressed interest in rezoning his property if the council was unwilling to amend the ordinance to allow chickens.
Langley was hesitant to change the ordinance, saying he believes Cottingham could deal with the residents interested in keeping chickens on a "case-by-case" basis.
Cottingham said the council would likely discuss the proposed ordinance again prior to the council's meeting May 7 or May 21.