AP NEWS

More Waupun residents support chicken ordinance

March 1, 2019

WAUPUN — A clutch of Waupun residents hope to get a city chicken ordinance off the ground, and attended a special Common Council meeting Tuesday night at City Call.

Although the meeting was not specifically about raising chickens, discussion of the matter quickly took wing, with input on both the sunny and the flip sides of the case.

Jared Ramthun spoke first.

“Especially if you have young children, it’s a great learning experience for them,” he said. “This may be an agricultural area, but when they take a field trip, that’s their only experience on a farm. When I was a kid, everyone was familiar with a farm. It’s good from that aspect, for allowing people to be a little bit more independent. I’m just want to say I’m for it.”

Chris Parrish followed, indicating that his daughter is a member of 4-H and FFA and raises chickens as part of her involvement in those organizations.

“We moved to Waupun six years ago, and we know this has been discussed for a long time,” he said. “There are many benefits to having chickens including feeding your family, teaching your kids about hard work and demonstrating that it’s OK to have laws to regulate a good thing. We have to travel 45 minutes to take care of my daughter’s birds outside the city, when this stuff could be happening right in our backyard.”

“I don’t mean to be a crank about it, but laws are going to be where the biggest problems lie,” Sherry Rabehl said. “We have problems with dogs right now, and there are stray cats constantly where I live. We have enough trouble now with keeping lawns and sidewalks under control. That is starting to get lax. Is this going to get lax too? I hope not.

“I think you should give this idea a chance, but there have to be laws and they have to be enforced.”

Jeffrey Vree spoke in favor of keeping chickens and distributed handouts dispelling popular myths about keeping chickens. The handouts countered myths that chickens are noisy, messy/smelly, attract rodents and predators, decrease property values, create a health hazard, are a fad, and that coops are an eyesore. According to the information presented by Vree, none of those myths are true.

On the positive side are better eggs, great fertilizer, recycling of organic waste such as food scraps, controlling of insects and weeds without chemicals, Vree said, noting that chickens are “low-impact” pets and have a positive impact on a backyard ecosystem.

“I feel that having hens in town is an incredible opportunity,” Vree said. “Obviously some people are dead set against anything. They’ll find something to complain about, but I want to give my wholehearted support to the opportunity to raise chickens here in Waupun.”

Kristen Gappa took a different tack.

“I think there’s something flawed about this distinction between the city and the country,” Gappa said. “You’re not out of the country when you’re in Waupun. I think separating the two is a mistake. Any person has a drive to cultivate and to create — not just farmers. We should all be able to participate in that human-ness in whatever scale we can find. I think Waupun should bring this opportunity back to its citizens, and I’m not alone in that.”

While council members were receptive to the idea, they are concerned about who will enforce whatever ordinance and rules are created.

“I don’t know if our city has the resources to do this in a proper fashion,” council member Jason Westphal said. “We can write good ordinances, but how will we make sure people are following them, and who does it fall upon to enforce them?”

A suggestion that a public vote might be taken was quickly rejected, due to the open-ended nature of the question and the probably small number of people who might actually keep chickens.

City Attorney Dan VandeZande clarified, “The purpose of this discussion is to see if there’s enough interest in the council to have me draft an ordinance and put it in front of you. If there’s not enough interest, I don’t like preparing documents to have them thrown away.”

Discussion will continue at future meetings.

In other action, the council approved switching building inspection services from Kunkel Engineering to Green Valley Inspection Services. The service is covered by inspection fees, although the city does pay for meeting times required by the job. Some fees have been raised to match those charged in other nearby communities.

“I think there’s something flawed about this distinction between the city and the country. You’re not out of the country when you’re in Waupun. I think separating the two is a mistake. Any person has a drive to cultivate and to create — not just farmers. We should all be able to participate in that human-ness in whatever scale we can find. I think Waupun should bring this opportunity back to its citizens, and I’m not alone in that.” Kristen Gappa, Waupun resident