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Poultry to roost in city limits

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A hen considers an escape from her home in the county to join other poultry that may soon be the newest residents within the city limits of Roswell. The Roswell City Council approved an ordinance with a vote of 7 to 3 to raise egg-laying fowl within city limits after a public hearing on Thursday night. (Alison Penn Photo)

City officials flock together in support of ordinance’s second time at full council

Whether to have a limited amount of poultry within the city limits or not was approved by the Roswell City Council after a public hearing and discussion.

All 10 city councilors were present to vote at the nearly six-hour meeting on Thursday. A motion to approve the poultry ordinance was made by City Councilor Judy Stubbs and seconded by City Councilor Barry Foster. The final vote on the ordinance was 7 to 3 with councilors Angela Moore, Judy Stubbs and Savino Sanchez casting opposing votes.

The ordinance failed to pass with council voting 4 to 4 on the matter in May 2017. As specified last year, roosters or male chickens capable of crowing or other disruptions are still forbidden.

Within the current city code, keeping chickens and other egg-laying fowl are prohibited inside the city limits. The meeting’s agenda stated the code could be amended with conditions and limits regarding the lot size and other city code sections pertaining to animal cruelty and nuisance would also apply. The drafted ordinance lists that four female hens including chickens, ducks, turkeys and any sex of pigeons can “be kept on any lot within the city” and as the lot sizes increase, so do the acceptable number of birds. A larger lot could have 10 and 1 acre or larger could have 25 various species of fowl. The specifications of the ordinance can be viewed on the city’s meeting agenda on the website (roswell-nm.gov/AgendaCenter).

City Attorney Aaron Holloman said the drafted ordinance went before the Legal Committee on a Sept. 27 meeting and Oct. 25 where councilors made amendments to not include pheasants as acceptable fowl.

Council’s favor

Councilor Foster said he’s not a big fan of eggs, but a “big fan of education and anything that can get kids to learn, get kids to get active.”

“I know when I put it out on Facebook — I can’t tell you how many hits of people that want this to happen and only about two of the people that responded did not want it,” Foster said. “And so, I think this is what the people of Roswell want.”

Grant said he had been in favor when the measure first came to council in spring of last year and has heard supportive feedback from constituents this time. For personal experiences, Grant said some of his neighbors keep chickens and has experienced no issues or noise complaints.

Councilor Steve Henderson said he originally was against the measure but would be willing to try it if citizens could be “responsible and successful” in the keeping of their animals. He said if issues arise, the council can look into repealing the ordinance.

Confident the measure would pass, Best said the ordinance could bring the “older generation back to their childhood when they sit in their rocking chair at one of the homes and pet these chickens.” She encouraged younger citizens to write down their elders’ memories and shared her support of the ordinance, citing the potential to teach business and responsibility to locals.

Opposition 

Councilor Sanchez said his concerns were that some people would not be responsible, which could burden their neighbors, and contemplated whether the new ordinance would add more to code enforcement’s full plate. He said he was opposed and would not vote in favor of the measure.

Stubbs prefaced her opinion saying she has been employed as a 4-H agent in two counties in the state and manager of the Eastern New Mexico State Fair for four years. She drew attention to the fact that the ordinance included more than chickens and the ordinance would not supersede federal, state or locals laws — including contractual or real property agreements. Roebuck asked for a clarification if the Homeowners’ Association agreement is legally allowed to restrict poultry or if a landlord could prohibit poultry on their property and Holloman confirmed both of these items.

Public participation 

James Husby, Gary Hartwick, James Schmidt and Molly Boyles spoke in favor of the measure during the public hearing. The consensus among the speakers was the ordinance could allow families and students in 4-H clubs or Future Farmers of America (FFA) to have an educational experience in the city. No public members spoke in opposition of the proposed ordinance and one audience member came forward to speak in support after Mayor Dennis Kintigh offered an opportunity on Thursday night.

Husby said six children from a 1-year-old to a 16-year-old live in his household and he said it is important for him to teach his children where their food comes from, while also refocusing their attention from video games. Previously, Husby said his family did raise chickens, which his family loved, and the chickens did contribute to controlling food waste.

Pertaining to noise and cleanliness concerns, Schmidt and Councilor Henderson said the chickens are quieter than dogs. Boyles said chickens can also assist with “bug control” and providing fresh eggs to local families. Husby said Las Cruces and Albuquerque now allow poultry and Schmidt listed Denver, Los Angeles and New York as cities which have also adopted similar measures.

Hartwick said he was not keen on the idea until Foster’s post about 4-H projects and he shared his personal story about growing a farm after acquiring chickens when he was 10 years old.

“So I thought more about the chickens,” Hartwick said. “A few chickens aren’t going to be a big problem, I don’t think, in the neighborhoods and I think it gives people, kids a good view on life and responsibility.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.