Bishop Chicken Ordinance Heads to the Voters

The Bishop City Council has approved a chicken ordinance for the November ballot.

At their meeting Monday night, the council went to work to tighten up the ordinance proposed two weeks ago.

Once again, Councilmember Jeff Griffiths, (who got rid of his chickens when the debate started and whose son harbors aspirations of owning a 4-H rabbit,) recused himself from the debate.

The newly proposed ordinance would allow a person to have four chickens and/or four rabbits, as long as the total number does not exceed four per property. Chicken coops and food storage must be reasonably rodent proof and the coop has to be 20 feet from the property line if there is a neighbor. Also, a coop can be closer to the property line if the owner and occupant of the adjacent property agree to allow the closer coop.

The council approved the first reading of this ordinance 4-0. Councilmember Bruce Dishion did vote to approve this ordinance that will go on the ballot, but he wanted to clarify that while his constituents are opposed to backyard chickens, the issue needs to go to a vote. If people want it, thats fine, he said, adding, if not, thats fine too.

The ordinance is now set for a second reading at the next council meeting and is expected to be on the ballot for November.

Since this issue first came to the political stage in January, many have described the situation as divisive. Often neighbors dont mind if someone keeps backyard chickens because there are usually eggs to spare and share. In at least one other case, the chickens are a source of animosity between neighbors. In recent days, a Home Street resident called the Bishop Police to report that his neighbor had used a garden hose to spray him during a dispute over backyard chickens.

How many people in Bishop currently have backyard chickens is not known, but until recently this was not a major issue. City Administrator Rick Pucci says that since the previous poultry ordinance that bans chicken yards was passed in 1966, the City has received very few complaints regarding backyard chickens. The issue reportedly came to light this time when a neighbor complained about Councilmember Laura Smiths chickens. It then turned out that Councilmember Jeff Griffiths and his children had backyard chickens.

The ordinance may help clarify this issue for neighbors, but if voters reject the ordinance, the Citys unclear 1966 ordinance will be the guiding law, and the City will be right back where it started on this issue. Regardless of whether or not the ordinance passes, legal limbo for turkeys and ducks will likely remain.


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