Chicken debate to be continued

By Emma Coleman

Lexington City Council Thursday night moved to postpone its decision to enact or discard a zoning ordinance that would allow residents to keep backyard chickens. The council will reconvene on Oct. 17 to further discuss the ordinance presented by the Planning Commission.

“I see your ability to get things done has not improved,” former council member J. Patrick Rhamey, Jr. said to council during public comment. Rhamey proposed the council draft a similar ordinance last December during his last meeting as a member.

“I think we probably need a little bit more time,” Council Member Marilyn Alexander said.

The motion to postpone discussion passed 5-1 with Council Member Michele Hentz opposing. While several council members agreed that the ordinance was well composed, some said they were struggling to make a decision.

Lexington resident Beatrice Johnson expresses her opposition to a proposed backyard chicken ordinance at the City Council meeting Oct. 3. Photo by Emma Coleman

“I think we will be sitting here in two weeks still struggling,” Council Member David Sigler said.

Five Lexington residents commented publicly on the drafted ordinance. Three were opposed to keeping chickens in the city.

Beatrice Johnson said she is concerned about chicken odors and noises in her neighborhood. She presented the council with a petition. Council Member Leslie Straughan said it contained 80 to 85 signatures from Lexington residents who are opposed to having chickens within city limits.

Don Kludy said he also opposes permitting backyard chickens. He is concerned that their presence may hurt property values. “I don’t want Lexington to go backwards,” he said. But he also said that the ordinance was well drafted by the Planning Commission.

Don Kludy of Lexington tells City Council members Chuck Smith and Leslie Straughan why he opposes a backyard chicken ordinance.

“The Planning Commission did what we asked them to do,” Alexander said, but the struggle remains. “People are still concerned about it.”

“There are so many more nuisances than chickens,” Hentz said, disputing Johnson’s and Kludy’s concerns. “We also have noisy neighbors.”

She said she thought the drafted ordinance was very good. She did not think the number of residents who would apply for chicken-keeping permits would be enough to disrupt property values.

Craig Streeter asked the council to consider adding ducks to the ordinance. But council members were hesitant to make changes to the drafted document.

“Do we add ducks and then emus next?” Council Member Dennis Ayers said. “Adding ducks to the equation is a step to far.”

Council Member Charles “Chuck” Smith agreed. “It’s just chickens,” he said. “Let’s see how that goes. Then we can think about ducks.”

Smith said he thought the drafted ordinance included enough protections for neighbors of potential permit holders. “This is reasonable and it’s fair,” he said.

“I would like to be able to please both sides,” Alexander said.

But Ayers said, “No matter what we do, we are going to offend folks.”

“It’s okay for reasonable people to disagree,” Sigler said. “We can disagree, and we can still be neighbors.”