City Council defers urban chickens ordinance

City Council members Chris Anderson, Carol Berz and Moses Freeman. (Photo: Staff)

Chickens within Chattanooga city limits will have to continue living renegade lives, as City Council members voted Tuesday to defer an ordinance that would have granted them legal status inside city lines.

The ordinance, proposed by Councilman Chris Anderson of District 7, was deferred in a 6-3 vote.

The proposal marked the first time the council has debated the issue of urban chickens in three years.

Anderson had suggested no more than 10 female chickens, or “laying hens,” be allowed on residential property for personal use and that owners register with McKamey Animal Center for review of their coops. No roosters would be permitted.

Chickens are currently not allowed within Chattanooga city limits. (Photo: GNU, MGNOnline)

Before voting on the issue, Anderson said he had taken numerous steps to draft the ordinance with a “flock of community members,” many of whom had approached him on the issue during his campaign.

“I think the people who have wanted this for many years would say they don’t feel rushed,” he said.

But despite expressing strong support for the general idea of urban chickens, the majority of council members opted to allow for more consideration on the issue. Several stated their preference to let the proposal be considered first by the Animal Control Board and be included in a more broad animal control ordinance that will be brought before the group in July.

Councilman Larry Grohn said he would prefer to use the board in place rather than circumvent it.

“I don’t personally see why we have to rush to do this,” Grohn said. “To me, this feels like a total rush for no reason. We have a board, and I think we should go through that channel—or else get rid of it.”

Mike Mallen, chairman of the Animal Control Board, and Karen Walsh, executive director at McKamey, also appeared before council members. Both agreed that they supported the core elements of Anderson’s proposal but would rather take additional time.

“It would be better, more efficient, and a better product would result if this ordinance were deferred into the work that we’re doing on other subjects,” Mallen said.

Councilpersons supporting deferring the ordinance were Carol Berz, Moses Freeman, Russell Gilbert, Larry Grohn, Chip Henderson and Yusuf Hakeem. Those opposing the postponing of the ordinance were Jerry Mitchell, Ken Smith and Anderson.

Following the vote, Anderson said he would continue to work to make “restricted chicken ownership” legal for Chattanooga residents in the coming months.

“There is no solution that pleases everyone,” Anderson said. “There are people who want some restrictions and people who want none, so some people are going to be unhappy with the result. My hope is that the result is the best for my district and for the city overall.”

In other news, the council unanimously voted to authorize the employment of Sandra Freeman as City Council clerk and confirmed both Lee Norris as administrator of the Department of Public Works and Ron Swafford as City Court clerk. Both Norris and Swafford were appointed to their positions by Mayor Andy Berke last week.

Anderson also announced his choice for an appointment to the Animal Control Board because of a vacancy in District 7. Anderson nominated Lori Quillen for the position, and she was unanimously confirmed.

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