If you’re looking to keep chickens in College Township, don’t start counting your eggs just yet.
In a standing-room only meeting Thursday, the College Township Council decided to table an ordinance that would allow chickens to be kept in residential areas.
The ordinance will go back to the planning commission for adjustments.
The decision was made after a public hearing that heard 20 residents speak their minds on the pros and cons of poultry in their neighborhoods.
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Some who spoke related stories of growing up around chickens, the benefits of having them around and the joy they bring as pets.
Other expressed difficulties with noise, smell and the fear that chickens can be easily abandoned.
Highlights of the ordinance include a requirement that all chickens must be housed in a roofed, secured coop; yard setbacks that prevent a chicken coop from being within 40 feet of an occupied building on an adjoining property; a limit of no more than four hens with no roosters allowed; and a restriction on allowing chickens to run at large.
Those opposed to the ordinance were primarily concerned with the yard setback requirements, claiming that on some properties, being within 40 feet of an adjoining home would put a coop closer to the neighbor’s home than the owner’s home.
Comments were also made on the lack of any noise regulations, as some chickens can squawk well into the night.
Councilwoman Mary Shoemaker said she wanted to give chickens a chance in the township, but wanted to know what would happen to those who got chickens in the interim if the ordinance didn’t work.
Senior Planner Mark Holdren explained that the ordinance could be repealed, and those with chickens could possibly be grandfathered in to be able to keep their animals, provided the chickens had not caused any problems.
Councilwoman Carla Stilson supported the 40-foot setback from adjoining properties, but asked if additional language could be added requiring a maximum distance from the owner’s home.
Councilman Rich Francke said he has spent a lot of time with chickens in his municipal career, so he wasn’t swayed to support or deny the ordinance in any way. He did, however, agree that in an issue of fairness, there should be language that indicated a required distance from the owner’s home.
Francke also suggested that a noise requirement could be added that would be similar to the requirements for cats and dogs in residential areas.
Township Manager Adam Brumbaugh suggested that the board table the ordinance.
Additional language could be added that would address the distance and noise issues. The ordinance would then be presented in another public hearing for future adoption.
The board agreed that would be the best option.
“I think both sides of this issue are to be commended for dealing with this matter in the way they have,” Council Chairman Eric Bernier said.
“We didn’t defeat this issue, and we didn’t support it out of respect for those who opposed it. In the end, we’ll see if we can reach a point where everyone is as comfortable as they can be with it.”