GOSHEN — Advocates of urban chickens celebrated Tuesday night, April 15, as the Goshen City Council approved a two-year pilot program that allows city residents to keep up to six hens.
After a long debate, the city council voted 4-3 to issue up to 50 permits over the next couple of years to residents who pay a $25 registration fee and get written approval from adjoining property owners. The permits will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.
While acknowledging that owning chickens can be expensive and hard work, supporters of the ordinance argued that it is important for a society to know where its food comes from.
“People should be allowed to make their food, grow their food and eat their food anywhere as long as we’re not infringing on other people’s rights,” resident Tim Drescher told council members. “There shouldn’t be any kind of serious issue with having chickens.”
There was a back-and-forth discussion among supporters and those in opposition about potential predators, such as foxes and coyotes, that would want to kill chickens. All chickens will have to be kept outdoors in enclosures, including a chicken coop made of solid materials on all sides and a covered pen or run. The enclosure would help prevent the birds from escaping and block rodents and predators from harming the chickens.
Enclosures must be at least 15 feet from property lines and at least 20 feet from adjacent homes, churches, schools and businesses. Enclosures cannot be located in front yards.
The newly approved ordinance allows city residents to keep chickens as pets or for personal, non-commercial use. Selling eggs and fertilizer will not be allowed, and breeding and slaughtering chickens will not be permitted.
Council members Edward Ahlersmeyer, Jim McKee and Brett Weddell voted against the ordinance while Dixie Robinson, Julia Gautsche, Jeremy Stutsman and Everett Thomas voted in favor.
Ahlersmeyer and Weddell cited health concerns and property values as reasons for voting against the ordinance. Gautsche, however, argued that allowing city residents to keep chickens could be an attraction for young families.
“If keeping chickens is something that makes our community seem more welcoming, seem a little more progressive, I think it’s worth taking a chance and trying for two years and seeing how it works,” Gautsche said.
- The council adjusted the interest rate for a loan agreement with LaCasa Inc. from 3 percent to 1 percent over what the city is earning.
- The council voted to pass the first reading of annual tax rates for the cumulative capital development fund at 5 cents for every $100 of assessed value; for the cumulative building and sinking fund for municipal sewers at roughly 3 cents for every $100 of assessed value; and for the cumulative building or remodeling, firefighting and police radio equipment fund at roughly 3 cents for every $100 of assessed value.
- The council also approved $5,911 for equipment repairs.
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.