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Chicken ordinance takes flight
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MONROE - One vote made the difference at the Monroe Common Council meeting on Wednesday night in the passage of an ordinance to allow city residents the choice to keep chickens in their backyards.

The seven members of the council who were present divided their decision 4 to 3 in favor of the ordinance, which changes city code to allow homeowners within the city to keep up to six female chickens secured within a coop and run within the rear yard of their property. The chickens can only be kept by a single-family residence. If tenants wish to apply for a permit, their landlord must sign the application on their behalf.

Alderman Michael Boyce was one of the three council members who opposed the change. He noted he would rather see a dog park come to fruition before residents would be allowed to keep chickens in their backyards within city limits.

"I'm an advocate for property rights, but I'm not in favor of this," Boyce said. "This is one of the silliest ideas I've seen come to council in my six years."

The public hearing allowed for residents to weigh in on the law change. Donna Douglas, a resident of Monroe's 9th Ward, is a former farmer who stood before the council to ask

they deny this proposed change.

"I don't know where the ordinance came from, or who it came from, but I would really ask you not pass this ordinance," Douglas said. "Chickens need work. I just don't see that the city of Monroe would need to pass something like this."

Jeff Severson is also a resident of Monroe. Severson and his wife would like to keep chickens at their residence along 16th Street and requested the council consider approving the application process for residents.

"We really can't see why there would be an ordinance prohibiting chickens," Severson said. "I realize it takes work to raise chickens. I think that if people use common sense, whatever common sense rules there are ... I don't see why responsible people wouldn't be able to keep chickens."

Severson went on to remark that he found the proposed ordinance well laid-out and was responsibly researched to protect the interest of each neighborhood. He added that he was glad to see committee members look into laws in other cities that allow chickens, such as Madison, Beloit and Milwaukee.

The ordinance does not allow chickens unless an applicant is approved by both the building inspector and city clerk. It calls for no more than six chickens, a coop and a run, which must be set 25 feet away from neighboring structures and at least 10 feet away from any applicant property line. The coop must be secured against predators and rodents. There are no roosters allowed. All chickens must be kept within the coop from sunset to sunrise, and no slaughtering of any kind will be allowed. Each permit is given on an annual basis. There must be at least four square feet per chicken, and the coop must be constructed in a way to ensure a humane environment for the chickens.

Aldermen Reid Stangel and Chris Beer were not present for the meeting. Council members Brooke Bauman, Louis Armstrong, Charles Koch and Tom Miller voted in favor of the ordinance. Richard Thoman and Jeff Newcomer joined Boyce in a no vote.

Each alderman said they had discussed the matter with their constituents. Bauman talked with residents who were both in favor and against the addition of the ordinance, while Thoman said most people he talked to didn't care and the rest weren't in favor of the ordinance.