Stacy resident runs ‘a-fowl’ of city ordinance

After receiving a letter from City Building and Code Inspector Jack Kramer threatening to cite her for keeping chickens, instead of getting rid of her chickens, Stacy resident Carissa Pullis came to City Hall Oct. 8 looking for a resolution.

Pullis was puzzled by Kramer’s notice and reference to the violation of city ordinance. Pullis told the council that both Minneapolis and St. Paul allow their residents to keep chickens and the ordinance prohibiting it in Stacy is unfair.

Kramer’s notice gave Pullis 15 days to remove the birds before she will run afoul of the law.

Pullis said she has five hens, but no roosters; the birds are penned, and she could not understand the nature of the complaint. Pullis has been in possession of the chickens since June. She described the birds as a “pet project” for her kids. Pullis insisted the chickens do not make any noise.

Pullis noted if the complainant were allergic to her chickens, she understood that would be an issue, but if the person or persons is not, she would like to discuss that with the city.

Mayor Mark Utecht responded the city would have to examine the issue. The council asked to see the letter from Kramer.

The mayor sought advice from City Attorney Peter Grundhoefer, who said typically the council doesn’t respond to inspection and code issues during public comment. He advised the council should speak to Kramer for information first, and then consider a change to the city ordinance.

“These are caged chickens, so there’s no danger to the public,” Grundhoefer said.

Utecht requested, and Pullis offered, to provide information and input pertaining to a possible zoning or ordinance change as soon as possible. Utecht described the ordinance change process and the inclusion of the Stacy Planning Commission. He also said a public hearing on the ordinance change would have to be held.

If Pullis provides documents and information to the council within the week, City Clerk Sharon Payne said she would forward them to the Planning Commission for review. Councilor Jim Ness asked that Pullis attend the Planning Commission meeting.

“Is there public comment there?” she asked and Ness responded in the affirmative. He said of the opportunity to speak publicly, “We’re pretty loose there.”

Councilor Michael Carlson said, and his colleagues agreed, the city will have to decide if residents may be allowed to go a “more sustainable route.”

Payne verified she has received more than one call from residents concerned about the city allowing chickens.

“Right now I am just trying to deal with (the question of) do you need to get rid of your chickens or not,” Utecht said, addressing Pullis. “The complaint was initiated by a neighbor, not by the city, so the city will have to determine if a grace period to respond can be extended.”

Grundhoefer said the source of complaints related to land is confidential.

Councilor Charles Lucia added, “I doubt she is the only one (in Stacy) who has chickens.”

Councilor Tony Olivolo didn’t see the issue with owning the animals.

“What is the nuisance?” he asked.

Utecht explained by definition there are pets and there are farm animals. The council was still having trouble determining from the letter what the specific complaint was.

“Is the complaint simply, ‘They are there?”’ the mayor asked.

Grundhoefer said a change of ordinance is complicated, “And this is not something the city is going to rush through.”

Ness noted, “It seems we want to evaluate it — is there a way to offer her an extension?”

Utecht advised the city will determine the basis for the complaint and will follow up with Kramer for clarification on the details.

And for now, the council agreed, Pullis can keep her chickens.

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