Serving O'Brien & Clay Counties

Something to cluck about in Everly?

Council members discuss 'urban chickens'

The Everly City Council on Monday fielded a proposal that could ruffle some feathers throughout town.

Resident Janice Nielsen gave a short presentation about urban chickens. She said around 10 households are interested in having fowl inside city limits, which she admitted would present both pros and cons.

"I know you guys get a lot of complaints about dogs and cats, and I don't want this to cause more complaints," Nielsen said. "But I think this could be a benefit to Everly. I didn't realize there would be such interest in our town in having hens."

Nielsen noted many Iowa cities have ordinances on the books that allow residents to raise laying hens on their property. Rules differ across the state, but she said local enforcement of regulations would be key to avoiding any issues.

Mayor Ron Thompson expressed hesitance about the matter. He explained Everly doesn't have the adequate staff to monitor whether chicken owners are following rules, and was concerned problems could spiral if the city tweaked rules.

City code does not currently allow any poultry to be raised inside city limits.

"We're going to have to weigh it out," Thompson said. "It is something we can look at and see if we want to deal with it or not."

The great chicken debate is not new in Everly. The council discussed changing rules in 2020, but ultimately decided to keep things as-is.

Many of the same concerns from three years ago were raised Monday. Stench, cleanliness, noise and appearance were all brought up, but Nielsen believed a strong ordinance and regular enforcement would be more than enough to keep things kosher.

"I know it's not a yea/nay decision right away," she said.

Nielsen also noted the cost to raise chickens is prohibitive to those who may think about buying a few birds on a whim. The animals need food, water, shelter and heat in the winter months, and they require a significant time investment on behalf of the owner.

"It's not a cheap venture," she said.

Council Member Tara Patrick said residents she polled were split relatively evenly on the matter. Some were fine with allowing hens in town, while others were concerned about odor, disease and other issues.

Patrick explained that with recent outbreaks of bird flu, people who work in poultry facilities have to be extremely careful about their risk of exposure. She also said some residents were concerned about waste disposal for things like bedding.

"I did a lot of research over the weekend and there is a lot involved in this," she said.

Ultimately, the council agreed to establish a committee to investigate the matter further. Thompson, Patrick and Council Member Tracey Grigg-Schuver will lead the committee, with its first meeting slated for Tuesday, March 14 at 6 p.m., at City Hall.

Thompson encouraged those interested in urban chickens to attend and provide feedback.

"There are just a lot of ifs about it," he said. "We're not saying yes and we're not saying no."

• To sell or not to sell?

In other business, Thompson proposed compiling a list of city-owned properties and placing them up for individual sale via sealed bid. He said people repeatedly approach him about buying city-owned land, and this could be a way to move some of it off the city's books in quick fashion.

"I think we put it out in front of people and say these are all open for bid," he said. "I think the fairest thing is to just have a description of each property and open them to bids...just say, 'This is your chance.' "

The council was interested in the proposal. City Attorney Dennis Cmelik will be instructed to investigate the matter further.

Thompson said the city would gain property tax revenue on all properties that transferred to private ownership.

"They're not making us anything right now," he said. "I think this is the way to go to get some of these properties behind us."

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