Fowl discourse: Chickens in town pondered

By Jason Ferguson

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Both sides of the chicken wire as to whether or not to allow the residents of the City of Custer to keep chickens within the city limits were heard by the Custer City Council Monday night, as the council held a public hearing about the matter at its regular city council meeting.

Mayor Corbin Herman said the issue has come before the council after a handful of people in town requested allowing chickens be allowed in town for the fresh eggs they provide. City ordinance currently states that no person shall keep any kind of livestock, including chickens, within the city limits except for special events.

If the ordinance were to be revised, laying hens only—no roosters would be allowed—would be permitted within the city limits and no more than six such chickens would be allowed. The person who owns the chickens would also be required to have a proper chicken coop and a fenced chicken yard.

In addition, any owner of the chickens would be required to register the chickens within 10 days of obtaining them, and the registering would need to take place every two years. A registration fee of $20 would be required.

The proposed amended ordinance goes on to state that the keeping of the chickens “shall not create a nuisance or disturbance of the peace,” and that substantiated complaints from a neighborhood could result in a citation and fines.

Emily Borkowski, 12, spoke in favor of amending the ordinance to allow chickens, saying tending to the chickens can be a family activity, and that the eggs are healthier than those purchased in a store.

Sue Bruer spoke out against allowing chickens in town, saying people are closed up all winter in Custer and that she wanted to be able to open her windows in the summer.

“I don’t want the smell of chicken (feces) in my window,” she said.

Bruer also said allow chickens in town could attract more skunks and other rodents, as well as cats or predators.

“I think this opens a whole big mess for people,” she said.

Alderwoman Carrie Moore agreed with the sentiment the city could be opening itself up for problems if the ordinance were amended, saying she once had neighbors who owned chickens and saw coyotes come to the pen in the middle of the day and had a fox eat one of her cats.

City attorney Chris Beesley suggested only taking input from the public at Monday’s meeting, and “tightening up” the ordinance if the council intended to pass it through a pair of readings. Beesley said there are potential loopholes in the ordinance as it is written, such as the section that says only six chickens will be allowed. It does not state if it is six chickens per resident of the home or per property.

“It has to be as tight as possible, otherwise people are going to look to go around it,” he said. “It’s just the way people are.”

No formal action was taken after the public hearing.

In other news from the March 4 meeting, the council:

• Approved the creation of a new “Hometown Hero” committee, consisting of Mayor Corbin Herman, alderwoman Sandy Arseneault, Kathy Johnson and county veterans service officer Jana Virtue. The short-term committee will make suggestions as to local veterans to honor during July 4 and Veterans Day activities, such as with signs and banners hung around downtown.

• Heard from city public works director Bob Morrison, who said the freezing and thawing happening in the city is causing headaches, estimating the frost is now five to six feet deep thanks to the constant cold. The situation is causing leaks, pointing to one unoccupied property that leaked 470,000 gallons of water before the leak was noticed.

City staff has constantly been dealing with winter weather issues, he said.

“It’s been a major issue for us,” he said.

• Approved Simon Contracting’s low bid of $114,950 for the chip seal project that will take place in the northwest section of town this summer. Around 51,000 square yards of asphalt will be covered. Simon Contracting is located in Rapid City.

• Accepted the resignation of Joe Harbach from the city’s planning commission and approved appointing Johnson to the committee.

• Approved a 5K “Dog Jog” and one mile “Mutt Strutt” May 11 as a fundraiser for the Custer Bark Park. The council approved the request pending proof of insurance from organizers of the event.