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Erik Burgess, Published August 27 2012

Chicken ordinance rejected by Moorhead City Council

MOORHEAD – An urban chicken movement won’t take flight here after the City Council voted down a motion to draft an ordinance change allowing the fowl in city limits.

The motion to allow urban chickens failed with a vote of 3-5. Council members Luther Stueland, Heidi Durand and Mark Altenburg voted for the resolution.

Stueland, who made the motion, was looking to change current city ordinance to allow property owners to have up to five hens. Moorhead currently defines all chickens as livestock and prohibits them within city limits.

Council members Nancy Otto, Brenda Elmer, Mike Hulett, Steve Gehrtz and Mark Hintermeyer voted against the measure, citing concerns of limited city staff hours with a budget deadline looming in the near future.

“We have so many other critical issues, and our staff are spread pretty thin already,” Elmer said.

One Moorhead resident, Dave Gorman, spoke to the council in favor of allowing the birds.

“I’m not going to take my chicken for a walk. I just want eggs,” Gorman said, responding to the concerns he’s heard that chickens are noisy and smelly. “It doesn’t cost the city any money, and it’s just an easy win for the residents.”

Stueland argued that the topic shouldn’t be discarded just because few have openly expressed favor for it.

“I would urge you to resist the notion that we disregard requests if it’s a small minority,” Stueland said. “To me this is an issue both about private property rights and the freedom for individuals to do something peaceful and productive with their property.”

Numerous council members who voted in the negative said they haven’t heard popular support for the measure.

The council urged Gorman and other chicken supporters to start a petition, which would require 1,900 signatures before the council would be required to discuss an ordinance or push the topic to a popular vote, Altenburg said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518