11 09 2009

After the high-stakes drama of the Bell’s Bend hearings,the Planning Commission meeting about the proposed chicken ordinance earlier this month was practically a love feast.  Hardly anybody, it seems, had a bad word to say about the birds.  One commissioner reminisced about turning his no-longer baby duck loose in Shelby Park.   Andrea LeQuire enthused about chicken tractors she had seen while visiting west coast urban gardens.  Citizens came forward to testify that hens are so quiet that they had had chickens for years and their neighbors only found out when they offered to share surplus eggs with them.   Sure, Jason Holleman’s bill, based on a Cleveland ordinance,  needed a few adjustments–as another commissioner pointed out, “six quail is not a lot of quail, but six turkeys is a lot of turkeys.” Regulations about the minimum size of the home site that can have chickens, the maximum number of birds allowed, and coop placement might need a little adjustment, but nothing too difficult.

Besides, Metro Council generally passes anything the Planning Commission recommends, right?

Councilman Holleman, in a phone interview, told me he had consulted with Councilman Paul Burch, who, along with Councilman Jim Gotto, was sponsoring a bill to completely ban chickens in the Urban Services District (anyplace your garbage gets picked up by the city, basically), and that it had seemed that Burch and Gotto would go along with a bill that simply set strict limits on domestic fowl.  Much to his surprise, Burch and Gotto did not vote for Holleman’s bill, and it was defeated, 15-20, setting the stage for the Gotto-Burch bill to be voted on at the next Metro Council Meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 15.

It seems to me the Council is “straining at gnats and swallowing camels” here–making trivial, hard-to-enforce rules instead of dealing with the many serious issues that face our city–and one of those issues is our lack of a viable local food supply.  If Burch-Gotto passes, it will constitute a giant step backwards.  A whole lot of otherwise law-abiding citizens will become outlaws, and even more law-abiding citizens will be prevented from doing something to feed themselves.  In fact, we can now say,


Please join me in contacting Metro Council and urging the defeat of the Burch-Gotto  chicken ban (which is up for consideration this Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 PM!) and a reconsideration of the urban bird issue.  You can find Metro Council contact info online at

Here’s my letter:

I am extremely disappointed that Metro Council defeated a bill that would have legalized and regulated the keeping of small fowl in the Urban Services District.  I hope you do not go on to pass the Burch-Gotto bill which will create an outright ban on keeping birds in the USD.

Such a move would create a problem where none exists.  There is no history of complaints about chickens; in fact, many urban chicken-keepers have already testified that their neighbors only learned of their birds when they were told, and had not noticed any noise or smell coming from them.  Are we going to have a “chicken hot line” where people can turn in their neighbors for unauthorized fowl activity?   There’s a word for that, and it starts with “chicken” and ends with —t.  Are we really going to send codes or the police around to bust people for keeping chickens?   I think both city departments–not to mention Metro Council–have much more serious things to deal with.

I hope you will vote against the Burch-Gotto chicken ban and move to reconsider the Holleman-LaLonde proposal.  Please let me know your thoughts on this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Martin Holsinger

to be continued….

music:  Rufus Thomas, “Funky Chicken




2 responses

28 09 2009

Oh Martin! I love your site! I hope there will be lots of outlaws with chickens! Can outsiders have a say in Bell’s Bend city council?

4 10 2009

update…good news, and good news…from Metro’s website:

BILL NO. BL2009-499

An ordinance amending Title 17 of the Metropolitan Code, Zoning Regulations, by amending Section 17.04.060 to provide definitions for “common domestic farm animals” and “exotic animals”, all of which is more particularly described herein (Proposal No. 2009Z-015TX-001). The bill was approved by the Planning, Zoning and Historical Committee. Mr. Burch moved to defer the bill indefinitely, which motion was seconded and adopted by a voice vote of the Council.

BILL NO. BL2009-502

An ordinance amending Chapter 11.20 of the Metropolitan Code to prohibit the Metropolitan Government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity through its employment practices. The bill was disapproved by the Personnel-Public Information-Human Relations-Housing Committee. Ms. Barry moved to pass the bill on third reading, which motion was seconded and adopted by the following vote: “Ayes” Garrett, Barry, Steine, Maynard, Matthews, Harrison, Hunt, Murray, Jameson, Cole, Bennett, Jernigan, Page, Moore, LaLonde, Gilmore, Baker, Langster, Evans, Holleman, McGuire, Adkins, Todd, Mitchell (24); “Noes” Tygard, Craddock, Forkum, Ryman, Gotto, Burch, Stanley, Claiborne, Crafton, Foster, Dominy, Hodge, Toler, Coleman, Duvall (15).

so….domestic fowl continue to inhabit the grey zone, but metro has moved towards bias-free hiring, at least as far as sexual orientation/identity goes….only one crew left in the closet…the pot smokers….

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