by Jennifer Chick
A small group of determined youth have moved Farmington one step closer to having chickens within its city limits.
Teens Annabelle and Stefan Randow, Mya Tsukino, and Lerew Kaas presented their case to the council while supporters filled the meeting room seats, waving signs and wearing T-shirts to support their cause.
Following their thoughtful and detailed arguments, the Farmington City Council voted unanimously to send the item back to the Planning Commission for discussion.
Annabelle Randow dispelled common myths about noisy, smelly chickens that attract pests and predators. She said chickens love to eat pests of all kinds and dogs and cats usually leave chickens alone.
“Raising chickens is a great way to teach kids to be responsible,” she said. “It also teaches them where food, like eggs, comes from. Changing the world, one chicken at a time.”
Tsukino talked about the poor conditions when chickens are usually raised on commercial operations. Instead, the group is advocating residents only be allowed to keep one to six chickens and no roosters in their backyards.
“I believe backyard chickens will move Farmington forward,” she said.
Stefan Randow listed many other nearby communities which are already allowing chickens: Anoka, Bloomington, Burnsville, Duluth, Eagan, Fridley, Maplewood, Minneapolis, New Brighton, New Hope, Northfield, Oakdale, Ramsey, Rosemount, Roseville, St. Paul, Shoreview and Stillwater.
“We are surrounded by towns who allow chickens,” he said. “It would give many people and kids the ability to fully grasp the real meaning of respect and responsibility. Chickens will teach kids a life of sustainability. To live a sustainable lifestyle, you must produce much of what you consume yourself.”
Kaas is a 4-H member who would like to raise chickens to show at the county fair.
“Backyard chickens have a bad reputation to some people and this is unfair,” he said. “People think that having chickens next door to them will bring the value of their homes down.”
Instead, urban chicken owners often treat their chickens like family pets, building them compact and creative chicken coops. He said there have been no complaints in towns that have already allowed backyard chickens.
“They are better looking than your neighbor’s dog house, wouldn’t you say?” he asked the council as he showed chicken coop examples. “And if I can come over and pet your dogs, you can come over and pet my chickens.”
“We are not giving up until Farmington can at least give this a try,” he concluded.
Council Member Douglas Bonar supports the idea. He was on the Planning Commission two years ago when it unanimously voted to send the issue to the council for approval. At that time, the council did not approve the idea. Council Member Jason Bartholomay also would like to see the Planning Commission and council reconsider the idea. He said there are families in Farmington who already have chickens in their backyards, and he would have never known if someone had not told him.
Council Member Terry Donnelly voted no on the issue last time, but he is considering a change in his vote. He appreciated the group’s presentation and wants to see the Planning Commission discuss the idea again.
Council Member Christy Jo Fogarty found it interesting there have been no complaints in nearby cities, but for the idea to get her full support, she said the rules might have to be more restrictive than what the youth are originally proposing.
Mayor Todd Larson would also like to see more restrictions to begin with, such as a one-year trial and that chickens only be allowed in R1 zones first, lots larger than 10,000 square feet.
In other business, the council revised its business development grant programming to allow funds to also be available for new businesses moving into the city. The council also approved a one-time transfer of $320,000 from the general fund to the ice arena fund to eliminate a negative balance. With changes in operation and expenses, Finance Director Robin Hanson feels the ice arena fund has the opportunity to break even after the deficit has been cleared up.