Urban chickens and the people that love them vs. the law – that was the issue that drew a large crowd to the Bishop City Council meeting Monday night.
Despite David Freeman holding court across the street to discuss DWP solar plans, Bishop residents lined up to ask the council to allow them to continue to raise chickens in their back backyard coops.
The problem is different interpretations of the law. In 1966, the Bishop City Council passed an ordinance that banned a poultry or animal yard, within 100 feet of any residential building.
Residents that have chickens coops felt that the chicken yard meant having a commercial coop that holds thousands of chickens rather than the handful of chickens that people have now. City Coucilman Bruce Dishion and former City Councilman Frank Crom felt otherwise. As former law enforcement officers, both Dishion and Crom could remember enforcing this law in the past when residents had backyard chicken coops.
Residents lined up to voice their support for backyard chickens, but no noisy roosters of course. Some liked their animals as pets, others mentioned the 4-H program. A love of fresh eggs and knowledge of where food comes from were mentioned in support of backyard chickens.
Councilman Dishion disagreed with the chicken supporters and said that he didnt see why everyone with chickens is not breaking the ordinance.
While he was amenable to letting the people decide by way of a ballot initiative, Dishion also raised health concerns, property value concerns, and said he was dismayed by the prominent people in the community that were currently breaking the rules.
Two council members, Laura Smith and Jeff Griffiths, admitted to having backyard chicken coops that they felt were legal under their interpretation of the law. Griffiths said that he doesnt believe that he is flouting the law.
The consensus among the chicken supporters appears to be that the city should allow people to have a small number of chickens, but no roosters. In the end the council tasked Bishop Community Services Director Keith Caldwell to come up with a possible new ordinance that will later come back to council. The vote to approve this step was 4-1 with Bruce Dishion as the dissenter.