Backyard chicken issue delayed, in doubt in Iowa City

Only one of final two readings on permit ordinance approved Tuesday

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The backyard chicken issue will slow roast in Iowa City for a couple more weeks.

The City Council Tuesday night voted in favor of two ordinances related to allowing people to keep a small number of chickens in their backyards. One would change the city’s zoning code, and the other would establish a permit process.

The council passed and adopted the zoning code change on a 5-2 vote. An effort to hold the final two readings of the permit vote Tuesday night was unsuccessful, though. The second reading passed, 5-2, but a third and final reading will need to wait until the council’s next meeting in two weeks.

The delay in adopting the permit ordinance prevented the council from voting Tuesday on a resolution establishing a policy that would lay out rules for people who keep chickens. The proposed policy would allow up to four hens at single-family homes only. There could be no roosters, slaughtering or selling of eggs, and chickens must be kept in a coop from desk to dawn.

While the two ordinances had the support of five council members – Michelle Payne and Terry Dickens were opposed – the chicken policy’s future is unknown. The council is divided on whether the policy should give neighbors veto power over the issuance of a permit.

At a work session before the council’s regular meeting, council member Jim Throgmorton said he’d propose that the veto power expire after two years and be replaced by a provision that requires people only to alert their neighbors if they plan to seek a permit for chickens.

Rick Dobyns and Susan Mims said they would support that. Payne and Connie Champion said they would not, and Dickens opposes chickens under any circumstances. Mayor Matt Hayek did not state a position but has previously advocated for veto power and could end up being the swing vote.

If the policy is defeated, no permit could be issued, and people could not keep chickens in city limits.

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