Local residents spoke to the Lonoke City Council on Tuesday during the monthly council meeting to ask for changes in the city ordinance restricting residents to raise chickens in city limits.
Lonoke resident Joanna Dowlearn, spokeswoman for the Lonokians for Backyard Chickens, said she is one of many residents who would like to raise chickens in her backyard. She said while she understands reason behind the original ordinance restricting them, she would like to see changes made so those citizens who want to provide more for their family.
"Folks want a natural way or option to provide for their families," Dowlearn said.
According to Dowlearn’s ordinance proposal, residents would be allowed to raise a flock of domesticated poultry as means of healthy, economical, independent food production and/ or source, to provide a natural/greener, sustainable living practices, and for agricultural and animal husbandry education for current and future generations.
The proposal outlined sanitation, housing, area and harvesting requirements as well as permissible poultry. Turkeys, peafowl and geese would not be permitted.
Some of the questions asked by the council were what size area per chicken would be required, who would mandate requirements are met, how to keep noise control of roosters down, how often would the animal waste be required to be removed and what measures can be taken to limit only chickens and not other forms of poultry or live stock.
Dowlearn said even the smallest yard could properly raise a minimum of six chickens in a limited space. She said in the event, the council chose to make changes to the ordinance, this could be a part of regulations made by the council. Dowlearn said waste removal would also depend on the amount of chickens being raise. She said while it could be required weekly, often city don’t mandate a specific schedule, so long as the aroma does not become noticeable.
As for who would mandate the requirements are met, Dowlearn asked who sees to the requirements of other animals, such as cats and dogs in the city. She said if license are required, only those will be permitted to raise chickens. Those who do not obtain a license or do not maintain area or sanitation requirements can have their license revoked and would not be allowed to raise them. In the event of recurrences, fines could be issued.
To answer the noise control question, Dowlearn said roosters are not required to have eggs. She said while it is not required, she would personally like to see them be permitted. Dowlearn said a rooster would be no louder than a barking dog, but in the event they become a nuisance to neighbors, they can be removed.
Dowlearn added that if chickens are viewed as "gateway animals" or open the door to residents wanting to raise other animals in the city, she said what is keeping a cat from opening the request of residents wanting a cougar or a dog opening request for those wanting coyotes. She said having any animal allowed within city limits could open the door for additional requests.
Alderman Pat Howell said while he would not be upset if the ordinance is or is not changed, he said it is the council’s responsibility to look at the city residents as a whole. He said there may be a small number of residents who want to raise chickens, but if the larger population does not want them, it is in the best interest of the council to not allow them.
While Dowlearn said she has not petitioned residents, she would be willing to do so. According to alderman Michael Florence, the only way to truly know what residents want, is to put it to vote in the upcoming election.
Dowlearn said if the council would consider allowing chickens to be raised in city limits for one year, she said the ordinance could then be revisited or revised once they see how things go. She said even New York City, as well as Little Rock allows chickens to be raised in residential back yards. Dowlearn said Lonoke is a farm community and chickens are part of the areas culture.
"I really believe if large cities can do this, Lonoke could do this," Dowlearn said.
Mayor Wayne McGee told Dowlearn that the council will check with surrounding communities to see how other cities handle ordinances for raising chickens.
"We will look into it and see what we can do," McGee said.
No action was taken by the council during the meeting.
The Lonokians for Backyard Chickens facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/lonokechickens.
Also during the meeting, the council unanimously voted to:
•Spend up to $4,500 on radios and pagers for the fire department
-Purchase cameras with docking station for the police department through Jag grant funds received.
•Spend $3,500 to have city Christmas decorations restrung with lights
•Purchase mosquito control chemicals for $45,962.63
•Purchase a new sprayer for the mosquito control department in the amount of $10,293
•Approve the city engineer to draw plans for the Cottonwood project
•Accept the 3rd quarter financial numbers
•Pay Arkansas Municipal League invoice of $8,275.30 for annual membership and municipal legal defense program service premium.
•Retain all condemned properties and properties with issues on the list until the next meeting
Alderman Danny Whitehurst was absent from the meeting. The next council meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Dec. 9 in the courtroom.