Bishop Chicken Ordinance Debate Drags On

The issue of whether or not residents of the City of Bishop can legally have backyard chicken coops has been festering since January since the debate first appeared at the City Council level.

At the City Council meeting Monday night, the council further refined a proposed ordinance after discussing how this simple issue had become divisive for local residents.

As the council went to work on an ordinance that would potentially allow a limited number of chickens, Councilmember Jeff Griffiths recused himself from the discussion because of my previous ownership of chickens and my sons desire for a 4-H rabbit. He said he wasnt legally required to step outside, but added that he did not want to be a distraction. Chicken owning councilmember Laura Smith did stay for the discussion.

Two members of the public spoke on the issue. Home Street resident Larry Clark spoke of his displeasure at his neighbor’s chickens but said that he favored putting the issue to the voters. Rob Klieforth of Willow Street said that he felt the debate over the potential negative health effects of chickens was overblown.

Councilmember Dave Stottlemeyre spoke to the divisive nature of an issue that pits neighbor vs. neighbor saying that while he has friends on both sides, he has heard, a lot of negativity. Stottlemeyre reported that since this issue came up for debate, he has received many phone calls, tattling for all kinds of things, not just chickens.

While anti-chicken himself, Councilmember Bruce Dishion explained that he favored putting the issue on the ballot. I have no idea if it would pass or fail, he said, adding that people have a right to have a say on the issue.

The proposed ordinance had called for allowing a person to have six chickens and six rabbits in coops 25 feet from the nearest residence. After much discussion Monday night, the council decided that the ordinance should read 20 feet from the property line and no more than a total of six rabbits or chickens. The idea is to put this ordinance on the ballot in November.

This ordinance would not leave much room for chicken coops. City Administrator Rick Pucci pointed out that the standard lot size in the City of Bishop is 50 feet by 100 feet. One chicken owner in the audience felt that the 20 feet from the property line requirement would force him to move his coop to his roof.

Another issue brought up by Pucci is that if voters reject the ordinance in November, the City would be back where it is now, without a clear idea if chickens are allowed or not.

City staff is set to work on a new ordinance to bring back to the council at a future meeting.

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