After sitting in the nest for six months Powell city council Tuesday night broke the heart of an 11-year-old girl when it decided the city isn’t the place for backyard chickens.
Council voted 5-2 against changing an ordinance to allow Maggie Carter to raise them. Carter had tried to cut through the city’s red tape since October to get officials to amend an ordinance banning farm animals inside the city.
“I followed the legal process and we all know this ordinance does not open the door for large farm animals,” Maggie told the seven men sitting at the long bench in front of her. “Powell continues to change and so must our ideas.”
“I’m asking you to vote in favor of this code change to allow Home Owner’s Associations the opportunity revise deed restrictions as they want,” she told the council. “Allow the HOAs to decide.”
Councilman Frank Bertone told Carter that it is the classic chicken and the egg story when it comes to HOAs and the city. “Which comes first? Your HOA is going to supersede a lot of what we say and do here,” he said. “I believe it’s a horrible precedent to set.”
Mayor Brian Lorenz said over the months the members of council had received emails on both side of the issue. He told Carter as a council it needed to take an overall view of the matter.
“We need to look at this holistically,” Lorenz said. “There has been a lot of back and forth with the ordinance as to how it was written.”
“I’m all for ya,” said Councilman Brendan Newcomb. “It comes down to freedom and we’re saying less freedom.”
Newcomb said he supports turning the issue back to local government, or in this case, the HOAs.
“I don’t think it is up to us to prohibit this city wide,” Newcomb said. “Let your neighbors decide if they want chickens in your neighborhood.”
Newcomb was one of the two councilman who voted in favor of the ordinance change. The other was Councilman Jim Hrivnak.
Carter and her father, Stephen, went before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission Oct. 12 asking for an amendment to an ordinance that would allow chickens on residential properties. The commission voted unanimously to pass what they named the Maggie Carter Zoning Code that could allow chickens to be raised on a residential property after being voted on by the city council.
The ordinance change went before city council twice for readings.
During the first session in November, Carter encountered opposition from several of the councilmen.
Vice Mayor Jon Bennehoof at that time said he commended Carter for what she was doing and he had done research on the subject. He said he had found 25 communicable diseases prone to chickens and about 20 natural predators that live in Delaware County.
“I consulted one of the first veterinary diplomats in the United States that I happen to know and he said chickens in a residential neighborhood was not a very good idea,” he said at the time.
During the process, Carter answered every councilman’s objection not to allow backyard chickens.
True to his word Bennehoof said Tuesday he was staying with his position against changing the city ordinance.
“I still think it’s a bad idea,” he said. Bennehoof voted against the ordinance change.
With a list of revisions council, in a 4-2 vote Dec. 6, remanded the ordinance change back to the planning and zoning commission that would allow backyard chickens.
Hrivnak had suggested changing to the ordinance to include a conditional use permit, which the Planning and Zoning Commission did incorporate.
“The conditional use permit I think is beneficial,” he said. “The Planning and Zoning Commission has come back with the changes that I asked for, so based on that, I support the ordinance.”
Before the second reading council had asked staff to find out how many Powell home owner associations had restrictions on raising chickens and to look at other communities’ application approval processes.
Council Tom Counts said he tends to agree with approaching the HOAs first. He said most of the people he has spoken with were not in favor of changing the ordinance.
“I’m not hearing this overwhelming cry from our residents that this is something they want,” Counts said.
Counts voted against the change.
After the final vote Carter and her parents left the council meeting. Carter took a moment to get a hug from supporters who were in attendance.
Carter and her parents declined comment after the meeting.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.
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