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Goshen councilman explores options for urban chicken ordinance

Goshen councilman Jeremy Stutzman and city attorney Larry Barkes are researching whether the city could issue a limited number of permits for people who want to own chickens in city limits. 

Posted on March 22, 2014 at 5:51 p.m.

GOSHEN — A Goshen city councilman who voted against allowing people to keep chickens on properties in city limits is exploring options that may bring the failed ordinance amendment back to the table.

The city council turned down an ordinance Tuesday, March 18, that would have allowed city residents to own up to six hens. Jeremy Stutsman was one of the four councilmen who voted against it.

“There are a lot of concerns the council had and that’s why it failed,” Stutsman said. “The only concern I really had on the whole thing was opening it up citywide right away. I wanted to see some sort of test cases, and I’ve been trying to figure out how we can do that.”

While debating the ordinance with his fellow council members, Stutsman came up with an idea of having the city issue a limited number of permits to people who want to have chickens.

“To me, that helps protect the neighbors and citizens who have fears about this,” he said. “We need some test cases, and if it doesn’t work we can close out the ordinance, and if it does work, we can adjust it so there’s no more permits, or add to the number of permits or however we see fit.”

City attorney Larry Barkes is digging into state statutes to see if Stutsman’s idea would be legal.

“It’s very encouraging because I thought it was basically dead for a long time,” said John Nafziger, a Hens for Goshen spokesman.

Nafziger started Hens for Goshen, a pro-urban chickens Facebook group, about four years ago. The group has grown to include more than 200 members. Not all of them want to have chickens, Nafziger said, but they support the idea.

Stutsman said he does not know when the council’s conversation about chickens in the city will resume. It could take as little as a week or up to a few months, he added.

“One of the things I try to do as a councilperson is set my feelings aside and really listen to what I hear the community is saying,” Stutsman said. “What I heard was really split on this one, and that’s why I think it’s important to not just say yes or just say no to it, but find that middle ground to see if this type of thing will work.”

Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.

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