Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

City Council: Chicken, Chicken, who's got the Chicken

1. June 2008 • Juliew
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Monday, June 2 at 7:00 pm (City Hall)
Ann Arbor City HallAgenda

Highlights:

  • Backyard chicken ordinances (most likely the final vote)
  • Resolution to approve conceptual plan to redesign Fifth Avenue and Division between Packard and Beakes to be more bicycle and pedestrian friendly
  • Resolution approving the court and police facilities capital improvement bonds

Also of interest are several public hearings at Tuesday’s Planning Commission Meeting.
Tuesday, June 3 7:00 pm (City Hall)
Agenda

  • University Village Site Plan (South University on the Village Corner). A proposal to construct a mixed-use development (retail on first level, 342 residential dwellings units on rest of floors) consisting of one 25-story tower with two wings, 20 stories each, and a total of 259 parking spaces (235 underground)
  • Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance. The proposed changes would reduce front setback requirements, increase height limitations, and (for non-residential districts) allow greater floor area ratios
  • Proposed Citizen Participation Ordinance that addresses the implementation of an early notification stage for citizens. The purpose is to improve communications between real estate developers who are proposing projects, City staff who will be reviewing projects, and citizens who may be affected by their plans.


  1. The Fifth and Division plan is critically important to the future of our downtown. Here are some comments I sent to the Mayor and City Council earlier today:

    Dear Mayor and Councilmembers,

    I am writing you as vice-chair of the board of the Downtown Development Authority respectfully urging you to support the plan to improve Fifth Avenue and Division Street (and the entire Ann Arbor downtown area) by adding over 100 much needed on-street parking spaces, calming traffic and making our downtown streets safer for families, and improving the city environment. The plan would transform Fifth Avenue and Division Street from urban thoroughfares that dissect our downtown into more functional city streets that meet the needs of motorists while creating safe opportunities for cyclists and pedestrians and bringing new vitality to surrounding properties.

    The Fifth Avenue and Division Street improvements plan is the result of a four year process that included hundreds of stakeholders and concerned citizens, numerous public workshops and focus groups, and detailed (and expensive) technical consulting studies demonstrating the plan’s benefits. DDA first sought City Council’s approval of this plan in April 2007, and City Council has now taken over a year to consider its decision. The hundreds of local businesses and citizens that developed and now support the plan deserve a timely decision by City Council. Further delays will create a shortage of downtown parking spaces, risk losing a $1 million state Transportation Enhancement program grant, make it more difficult and expensive for residents and businesses to invest in the Fifth Avenue and Division Street area, and add another layer of uncertainty about the future of our downtown. These are just a few of the reasons that I urge you to vote YES on the plan and reject any attempts to further delay a decision.

    Over the past four years, I have had the privilege of being a part of many decisions regarding the future of Ann Arbor’s downtown. During this time (which included two years as chair of the planning commission and a year as vice chair of the DDA), we have faced many difficult, contentious, and potential divisive issues regarding downtown development, including debates over building heights, restoration of a downtown greenway, and proposals for new public and private developments. The Fifth Avenue and Division Street plan is just as significant as these other issues, but different in an important way. While these other issues often divided our city, pitting businesses against neighborhoods, growth against preservation, and fiscal restraint against better city services, the Fifth Avenue and Division Street plan stands out for the broad and diverse support that it enjoys. This is because the plan presents numerous “win-win” results. Local residents and businesses will have more on-street parking with relative minimal public investment. Families and visitors walking or cycling the downtown will have safer streets without burdening or slowing car traffic. Real estate values will increase without pushing out long term residents and businesses. In short, our downtown will be more accessible, safe, and prosperous while maintaining Ann Arbor’s unique character and charm.

    I would also like to address a concern that an individual council member raised with me just a few days ago as his most recent excuse to further delay a decision on the plan. As council knows, DDA is currently considering building a new large underground parking facility on Fifth Avenue, next to the downtown library. As part of our planning, we are studying the traffic impact of the new parking facility. My background is as a professional planner, and I always want as much information as possible before making a decision. But the reality of being a civic leader and decision-maker is that you never know everything about the future when planning for it. There are many uncertainties facing this part of our downtown, including funding for a new city hall, plans for the downtown library site, and development on the former YMCA property. But the best way to predict the future is to shape it, and as civic leaders we have the opportunity and responsibility to do so. That is what the Fifth Avenue and Division Street plan is about – shaping the future of downtown with a plan that embodies Ann Arbor’s shared and diverse values.

    There is currently almost $200 million in public investment being discussed in the 5th and Division area (including city hall, the downtown library, new parking facilities, improvements to the farmers’ market, and public investment in the former YMCA property). These public investments are complemented by comparable private investments, from large developers such as McKinley to individual residents and small business owners. The Fifth Avenue and Division Street plan would connect all of these separate projects with a common look, feel, and function. But if City Council waits on this plan any longer, it is missing the opportunity to shape hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private investment with a 21st Century vision for our downtown.

    There is an equally important and even more pressing reason to approve the plan now. Numerous existing parking facilities will be temporarily closed or have reduced capacity in the next few years due to expansions and improvements, including the site adjacent to the downtown library mentioned above. Approving the Fifth Avenue and Division Street plan presents City Council with its best opportunity to prevent a disastrous short-term shortage of downtown parking spaces. This short-term shortage will be a major inconvenience for many residents and visitors and could be fatal for some local businesses. The 5th and Division plan would create 100 new very inexpensive, yet high revenue producing, on-street parking spaces throughout downtown. Our downtown will desperately need those spaces when the other sites are under construction.

    Further delay by City Council would also jeopardize a $1 million state Transportation Enhancement program grant. As City Council knows well, state funding for local government is dropping, and we cannot afford to lose any potential support. Other communities in Michigan are actively seeking state funding to improve their downtowns and transportation infrastructure. Ann Arbor already has received a commitment for a $1 million state Transportation Enhancement program grant, but this would be at risk with further delays. By not approving the plan now, City Council is putting more financial burden on city taxpayers.

    As always, I am happy to answer your questions, discuss your concerns, and hear your input on this issue. I look forward to continuing to work together to keep our downtown exciting, safe, and prosperous.


       —Jennifer Hall    Jun. 1 '08 - 10:00PM    #
  2. I wrote on a part of this plan a while back for Community High’s student run paper:
    http://the-communicator.org/index.php/site/article/ddas_new_deal/
    (the formatting on that article is all broken up, unfortunately)

    Some of the photos, extracted:
    http://flickr.com/photos/a2community/144178489/
    http://flickr.com/photos/a2community/144170103/


       —Matt    Jun. 2 '08 - 12:19AM    #
  3. Report from Sunday night caucus. I feel like writing long tonight.

    On entering the building at 6:45, the police desk sergeant asked if I worked there, and when I told him that I did not, but rather was there for caucus, said he didn’t know what I was talking about. A colleague of his overheard, and was familiar with the notion of caucus, but said that he didn’t think there was going to be one tonight, because they usually informed the desk, and no one had.

    I was nigh on leaving—in an extraordinarily grumpy mood, having been told by the Mayor’s office on Thursday that open office hours for Friday had been canceled due to a pressing issue out-of-town and that I could instead come to Sunday night caucus at 7:00pm.

    The police desk said it was fine to wait until 7:00pm to see if anybody showed up. At around 6:55pm a guy who looked like pictures I’d seen of Stew Nelson showed up, and he seemed convinced that there was supposed to be caucus, so I figured at least there’d be two of us pissed if there wasn’t caucus.

    Turns out it was Stew Nelson. And it turns out that there was caucus. For anyone contemplating a Sunday night adventure at caucus, bear in mind that it’s not real rigid about starting time or signs that say anything like, “Caucus tonight at 7pm, please come inside!”

    So it was me and Stew, plus CM Higgens, Mayor Hiefjte, CM Suarez, CM Briere, and CM Kunselman. If you’re counting along, that’s 7 people total.

    Stew was there to express support for backyard chickens, as was I. He reported having knocked on a few thousand doors as a part of his campaign for 2nd Ward Council encountering no opposition to chickens. He also reported on the results of extensive background research that had convinced him that backyard chickens were something we needed to support as a community.

    I was also there to express support for backyard chickens and to argue specifically against the neighbor permission and 40-foot setback requirements. Which the assembled council members allowed me to do at some length. And after Stew and I had said our respective pieces, and the five councilmembers began discussing the issue amongst themselves, they even indulged a couple of additional comments from me.

    It’s possible that I misread the Mayor’s sentiments, but my sense is that he remained unpersuaded by any of my arguments that the neighbor permission requirement should be jettisoned.

    That sense is based on the fact that the Mayor said that what persuaded him that neighbor permissions were a good idea was that when people who had objections to backyard chickens were offered the possibility of a veto, their objections melted away and it made them happy.

    I didn’t quite know what to make of that as an argument, but I offered some hand-wavy stuff about Toquevillian concerns for the tyranny of the majority being taken too far, and merely exchanging them for the tyranny of the minority. (That line of thinking is based on the idea that a 1 property owner could veto chicken keeping by 5 neighbors—on a usual grid configuration).

    If AU readers have a view as to the public policy wisdom of 40-foot setbacks and neighbor permissions as add-ons to the chicken ordinances (which is now it stands currently), then please share those views with the Mayor by email—it’s JHieftje at a2gov.org—or else show up and say something at the Public Hearing tomorrow.


       —HD    Jun. 2 '08 - 02:18AM    #
  4. I’m with HD on the rights infringement of the neighbor-approval requirement. (Toqueville likewise came to mind.)

    The mayor had joked at the meeting when the issue was last voted on that he didn’t want us to get on a slippery slope towards goats after allowing chickens. The slope is actually in that other direction of giving others veto power over what would otherwise be (after approval) a legal and appropriately regulated practice on private property.

    I think that the amendment is bad public policy. I’d like to see the ordinance passed without it.


       —Steve Bean    Jun. 2 '08 - 03:46AM    #
  5. Land use rules often have a neighbor-involvement component; adjoining uses can have a huge impact on a property. Zoning law developed, not as an abstract philosophical exercise, but as part of coping with problems and conflicts and accommodations in the messy and imperfect real world.

    Whether the neighbor-veto-chickens provision is good legislation or not is debatable, but I don’t see any deep Tocquevillian philosophical problem with it.

    That being said, I’m in favor of chicken legalization whether it has neighbor-veto in it or not.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 2 '08 - 08:32PM    #
  6. I agree with Jennifer Hall on the Fifth and Division plan.

    I am also in support of chickens. Here is my (long) pro-chicken letter to the Mayor and City Council:

    Dear Mayor and City Council Members,
    I would like to add my voice to the many citizens around the city who are in favor of changing our ordinances to allow backyard chickens.

    When my father was young, he had an urban Victory Garden during World War II where he raised Rhode Island Red chickens. He was so fond of those chickens and spoke so highly of them, that I have often have talked about raising some of my own. I liked the idea that I could support my community (and even my country) like my father did. Much to my dismay, when I looked into it, I found that Ann Arbor does not allow residents to raise chickens. Boulder does, as does Madison, New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Burlington (Vermont), Austin (Texas), Minneapolis, Miami, Anaheim, Albuquerque, and numerous other cities around the country.

    These aren’t rural bastions with cars up on blocks and toothless rednecks sitting on the porch drinking “likker” or agricultural communities full of tractors and farmers. These are hip, vibrant, cool cities. I think some people have a mistaken idea that allowing chickens will bring down property values or make a neighborhood look less prosperous. For many neighborhoods and many people, the opposite is true. Today “green” and “sustainable” are cool and a big garden and a few chickens are enticements, not drawbacks. Even the New York Times recently published an article on the hipness of urban chickens.

    As far as chickens themselves, I have been around them and find they are generally quiet and well-behaved. They are pretty, help keep bugs down, make cute soft clucking and purring noises, are fairly easy to raise, their droppings are good fertilizer, and they make eggs that people can eat! Essentially, they are the most useful pet anyone could have. And with the limit of four per household and no slaughtering, they are indeed pets.

    Which brings me to the unnecessary requirement that neighbors have to approve backyard chickens. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem for us since we only have neighbors on two sides and they are fine with chickens. But I find it amazing that I could have (all of these I have seen in my neighborhood): barking dogs free in a backyard, cats loose in a neighborhood, rabbits in a hutch in a front yard, koi in a pond, loud music, compost piles, leaf blowers, Chemlawn, carrier pigeons, parrots, polluting lawn mowers, smoking, beer pong tables, and bright lights without my neighbor’s permission. As a matter of fact, I can have bird feeders, bird houses, and bird baths apparently as long as they aren’t for MY birds. Yet I can’t have four chickens? That makes no sense. I don’t think neighbors need to approve of everything their neighbors do. I see that some cities require approval of a percentage of the neighbors (50-80%). I think 100% is far too high and gives an individual resident unreasonable control over what happens on their neighbors’ property. I would either remove or reduce the percentage of neighbor approval requirement.

    One oft-mentioned concern is that of avian flu. This is overblown. Our large population of wild birds and cats are also carriers of avian flu and we aren’t getting rid of those. The risk of getting toxoplasmosis (a very dangerous situation for a pregnant woman) from a cat is far greater in the U.S. than any threat of avian flu.

    I don’t think thousands of households are going to raise chickens. Just like having a garden, a dog, or a compost pile, it isn’t what everyone wants to do. In Madison, they distributed 123 permits from 2004 through 2007 so we won’t be overrun with poultry. As a busy professional, I might not even raise chickens at this time, but I very much support the rights of people who choose to do so and I want to live in a city that allows chickens.

    I am a strong supporter of the local foods movement. In addition to gardens, local eggs are a part of a sustainable future. Even if I do raise a few chickens, I will continue to support local farmers as I do now. Gardens haven’t put local farmers out of business, nor would backyard chickens. Raising Rhode Island Reds might not sound like much, but I would like to think that I, too, could support my community just like my father did.


       —Juliew    Jun. 2 '08 - 09:13PM    #
  7. Land use rules often have a neighbor-involvement component; adjoining uses can have a huge impact on a property.

    In this case, Larry, the potential for (negative) impact is already covered in the nuisance language. The power to veto a neighbor’s activities on their own property because it might result in a nuisance is the problem here. The amendment doesn’t just give fear precedence over rights, it gives the neighbors the power to deny rights ‘preemptively’. (I don’t mean to make it sound like a Bush administration proposal, but the terms apply, I think.)

    And as Julie pointed out, it doesn’t treat all animals (or possible nuisances) consistently—this requirement would be doubly bad public policy.


       —Steve Bean    Jun. 2 '08 - 09:58PM    #
  8. Larry Kestenbaum wrote: “That being said, I’m in favor of chicken legalization whether it has neighbor-veto in it or not.”

    Why?

    People who can keep chickens as a result of neighbor-veto chicken legislation, could have already kept chickens all along—under the complaint-based enforcement policy used by the city. And the city will actually tell you that if you call.

    Some people who already keep illegal chickens unbeknownst to adjoining property owners would STILL not be able to keep chickens legally—and yes, there are some.

    And finally folks who are not yet keeping chickens and whose neighbors will not grant permission, would also not be able to keep chickens legally.

    So what do we gain by passing it? Zero new chicken keepers by my count.

    My expectation of elected officials is that they are willing to consider input from all sides, and make a decision “once and for all” that applies fairly and uniformly and consistently across everyone—not shy away from the responsibility of taking that decision by passing it along to someone else—in this case a neighbor.

    If I don’t agree with the decision of my elected official, it’s not really “once and for all” because I can try to get them to change their mind—but there are customary and codified modes of behavior for doing that. E.g., You show up to Public Commentary, you write emails to official government accounts as a part of the public record, you write letters to the editor, you try to elect someone else, etc.

    With a neighbor, sure, there’s nothing to stop you from trying to change their mind. But there’s no customary and codified process for doing that. For example, one can reasonably assume that I asked my neighbor yesterday and the answer was No, then the answer today will probably be No. But what about tomorrow? The next day? How often do I get to ask before a temporary restraining order is granted? With elected officials, on the other hand, there’s a customary and codified process for engaging them. You don’t get to knock on their door at all, much less on a regular basis to see if they’ve changed their mind yet or to advance some new and novel argument.

    With an elected official, I can’t offer a cash payment in exchange for a vote allowing across the board chicken ownership. But a neighbor could well extort a cash payment in exchange for permission Or god knows what else.

    In conclusion I can’t think of anything to be said public policywise in favor of a chicken ordinance with neighbor veto.


       —HD    Jun. 2 '08 - 10:18PM    #
  9. I left chambers after Easthope’s attempt to amend out the neighbor approval failed. It almost died on lack of a second, but Suarez offered a belated wave of the hand—still it seemed clear that he was just giving it a second in order to give it a bit of discussion, something he confirmed during the deliberations.

    Briere and Suarez were concerned that the ordinance as printed in the newspaper and published on the web included the neighbor veto and that people’s expectations were that if passed, the ordinance would include the veto provision.

    Teal actually spoke in favor of striking the neighbor veto clause, with the proviso that there be a built-in review after a year.

    Hieftje practically shouted into his mic his insistence that the neighbor veto stay in, claiming the vast overwhelming majority of people who had communicated with him were against chickens.

    He said that if the neighbor veto amendment had NOT been a part of the Second Reading, there would have been 40 people in council chambers protesting. [Note that at the First Reading, when the neighbor veto was not yet a part of the ordinance, zero people showed up to speak against chickens.]

    For people keeping track of speaking turns tonight, it was 17-3 in favor of chickens, many explicitly opposed to the neighbor vetos and setbacks. Over the course of the last 8 months in various and sundry public forums, the balance was even more dramatically in favor of chickens.

    Ultimately though that’s not the math that counted—it was either the volume or the intensity of the private communications to people on council.

    So anyone needing a permission from an anti-chicken neighbor lost this battle. Only Easthope and Teal voted for it.

    I assume the main motion passed with the neighbor veto included. But I was gone by then.


       —HD    Jun. 3 '08 - 03:45AM    #
  10. No, I don’t agree that being able to keep chickens covertly and illegally is the same as keeping chickens openly and legally.

    Once keeping chickens becomes legal, as I presume it did last night, I think you’ll be surprised how many people decide to try it.

    As to neighbor-veto, I already said that its merits as legislation were debatable. I’m certainly glad that my neighbors have no say in whether I can have a cat or a dog or a parrot.

    Arguably chickens should be treated like parrots or other birds, but obviously a lot of people don’t feel that way.

    And, after all, keeping a parrot doesn’t require an accessory building. Keeping chickens for eggs is an economic activity, like slaughtering hogs or smelting copper. Economic activity is absolutely a legitimate object of zoning and city regulation.

    Politics is the art of the possible, and Ann Arbor is new to this chicken business. I’d rather have chicken legalization with neighbor-veto than no chicken legalization at all.

    (In case you’re wondering, it’s not really 4:47 am. The timestamp clock appears not to be on daylight time.)


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 3 '08 - 09:47AM    #
  11. I thought the chicken idea not a bad one. I am glad it passed, though we have no plans personally to own chickens. We have seen a red fox in our neighborhood for weeks, so people beware.
    I read a ban on plastic bans is next, also a good idea.


       —emilia    Jun. 3 '08 - 11:51AM    #
  12. The pro-chicken councilmembers voted against Easthope’s amendment, presumably to save the main motion. Main motion passed 7-5, with Lowenstein, Rapundalo, Greden, and Easthope voting no. It was amended to provide for a review in one year. Presumably the neighbor provision could be re-addressed at that time.

    The most vehement objector to the chicken ordinance was a woman who mostly complained about dog-generated noise and the inability of the city to enforce its present ordinances because of the lack of an animal control officer. She was not the writer of the letter to the editor in the News on the same subject.

    There were two other amendments to the noise and nuisance ordinances (items B-1 and B-2). They were mistakenly labeled as relating to backyard chickens but the city attorney pointedly said that they were not. I haven’t looked them up but apparently they strengthen the current ordinances with respect to other nuisances.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 3 '08 - 01:10PM    #
  13. Easthope’s “no” vote on the final chickens motion was curious to me since he was the one that wanted to strip out the neighbor veto part. Apparently, he thinks the opposite of Larry—a chicken rule with neighbor permission ain’t worth having.

    Given all the restrictions, (setback requirements, neighbor permissions, title exclusions) I wonder how many people will qualify and want to go through the permitting process. Then they have to invest in a coop and hope the law passes review a year from now.


       —mcammer    Jun. 3 '08 - 02:11PM    #
  14. Economic activity is absolutely a legitimate object of zoning and city regulation – Larry Kestenbaum.

    I totally agree with Larry’s comments. But the neighbor veto goes beyond zoning and regulation. I think there would be a lot of people in this town who would be pretty happy if they got to veto the zoning or land use on an adjacent piece of property. But that’s not how zoning and regulation work.

    I understand that Council was attempting to quell some fears about chickens by putting in the neighbor veto. I really hope that they strip that provision when they revisit this issue in a year.


       —Jennifer Hall    Jun. 3 '08 - 03:42PM    #
  15. How far away is a “neighbor”? Same block? Can one Rapundalo prevent an entire neighborhood from chickening out? So to speak…


       —a2oldie    Jun. 3 '08 - 06:47PM    #
  16. a2oldie,

    Based on council deliberations at First Reading, I understood ‘neighbor’ in this context to mean immediately adjacent property, where ‘adjacent’ includes those to either side, the rear, and corner-to-corner touching.

    So Rapundalo’s reach could not extend across the street.

    Last night one of the three speakers against the ordinance—even with the neighbor veto—based the argument on the inability of the veto to reach across the street. Apparently, the speaker lives on a street where the across the street the ‘rears’ of the dwellings are oriented towards the street.

    So what I imagine is deep lots going between two streets that go all the way through instead of having a pair. What she felt might happen is that you’d end up with a bunch of chicken coops right in a row all in plain view of the street right across from the front of her house, she’d have no ability to veto them, and she felt like her property value would fall under those conditions.


       —HD    Jun. 3 '08 - 07:05PM    #
  17. Hm. I hadn’t thought of a neighborhood veto over zoning and land use. Thanks for the idea, Jennifer!


       —David Cahill    Jun. 3 '08 - 09:29PM    #
  18. So in reading the chicken ordinances again, I noticed that the neighbor waiver is only if you want to put the coop closer than 40 feet to the neighbors’ residences. If your lot is big enough, you don’t need neighbor approval, right? While the 40 foot restriction is onerous for many (sorry HD), there are lots that are big enough without requiring approval. But I do agree with mcammer that given all the restrictions, there may not be many people who can keep chickens.


       —Juliew    Jun. 4 '08 - 12:35AM    #
  19. In watching the planning commission this eve two things stood out. One of the members stated he hoped there would be a good bicycle shop nearby to repair the bikes of the tenants in the proposed new highrise…............how long ha the bike store been on S.Forest? does this guy get out at all?

    The other comment was from a member of the commission that felt it necessary to point out no one comes to Ann Arbor because it is a small town. At it’s core Ann Arbor is a small to mid sized town. I support this new bldg. But I also want Ann Arbor to continue to look like Ann Arbor. I am disappointed when planning commission members seem to not know the history of Ann Arbor. Much of the appeal of Ann Arbor is in the small to medium town scale.
       —ziggy selbin    Jun. 4 '08 - 02:09AM    #
  20. Yes, I do so often find myself sitting at home, thinking “you know what I’m really in the mood for right now? A small to mid sized town.”


       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 4 '08 - 02:26AM    #
  21. Juliew wrote: “I noticed that the neighbor waiver is only if you want to put the coop closer than 40 feet to the neighbors’ residences. If your lot is big enough, you don’t need neighbor approval, right?”

    Nope. It’s true that the 40-foot setback can be waived by neighbor permission. However, permission to raise chickens in general is also required from every adjacent property owner:

    “ ... and no chickens shall be allowed to be kept unless the owners of all the adjacent properties (as defined below in subsection 3 (j)) consent in writing to the permit and this consent is presented along with an application for a permit. Written statements waiving the distance requirement in subsection (3) below shall also be submitted at the time of application and become a part of the permit if issued.”

    So it’s possible that Potential Chicken Keeper gets the permission from Neighbor A to keep chickens. That is, Neighbor A says, “Sure, go ahead and keep ‘em, I’ll sign that piece of paper.” But if there’s nowhere on PCK’s lot meeting a 40-foot setback, and Neighbor A declines to waive the 40-foot setback requirement, PCK is still screwed.

    Why would Neighbor A sign the general permission, but decline the 40-foot setback? I dunno … to be able to say, “I Support Chickens!! I even signed the permission statement!! [but I won’t have to live next to chickens … because I won’t grant the setback waiver … heh heh heh.]”

    It’s kind of like playing the Ann Arbor City Council home board game edition: even ordinary residents have opportunities to make grand symbolic gestures with great flourish, without having to worry that these gestures might have an actual impact in the world.


       —HD    Jun. 4 '08 - 02:54AM    #
  22. Ziggy,

    I think the Campus Student Bike Shop has a pretty crummy reputation. I’ve certainly never heard it referred to as a good bike shop. I went once, years ago, and that was more than enough for me. They did a terrible job on my tune-up (my gears were off by way more than they were when I brought it in), and the staff was really unhelpful/unknowledgeable when I was looking at other accessories.


       —Kelli    Jun. 4 '08 - 07:54PM    #
  23. That may be Keli; my point was that it seemed the commissioner did not know or had forgotten there was a bike shop there.

    Ann Arbor is what it is Mr. Fields. If you want to live in a big city move to one. Ann Arbor is not a big city. It is a medium sized town that has retained some it’s small town nature. Jackson, K’zoo and Batle creek all have less population than Ann Arbor but are much more urban in appearance.
       —ziggy selbin    Jun. 5 '08 - 01:46AM    #
  24. So, Jennifer (or anybody), what happened to the 5th and Division plan? I left too early and haven’t seen any coverage in the News.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 6 '08 - 11:31AM    #
  25. The 5th and Division plan was postponed one month. Some Council members felt they needed to see the DDA traffic model in more detail before making a decision. Councilmembers Lowenstein and Easthope voted against the postponement. It was 12:30am and they still had more meeting left.


       —Jennifer Hall    Jun. 8 '08 - 08:53PM    #
  26. Responding to a comment in #19, perhaps the writer missed part of the Planning Comission discussion when he commented on the planning commissioner suggesting that a bike shop be included in the retail at the corner of S. University and S. Forest student housing project. The writer asked whether the commissioner realized there was a bike store there for years, and whether he gets out at all. The commissioner made the suggestion precisely because he knew that the bike store on S. Forest was being absorbed by the project. The commissioner is also an avid biker in the area, including biking from SE to NE Ann Arbor to his former work at Pfizer, and knows the importance of good bike repair shops to bike owners.

    Jean Carlberg, Planning Commissioner


       —Jean Carlberg    Jun. 10 '08 - 04:05PM    #
  27. From a practicing planner’s point of view, the chicken ordinance as passed is a phenomenal administrative headache. I feel for Ann Arbor’s permitting desk.

    Issuing a permit will require:

    * verifying the address is a single-family or two-family home – easy

    * verifying the 10 or 40 foot setback of the coop – can be pretty hard, depending on whether you want to strictly apply it. if you’re about to wave your mortgage survey at me to show how easily you can show setbacks, take a look at the part of that survey that says, “not for construction purposes.” Unless that 40 foot setback is intended as 40 feet, plus or minus, the permitting desk is going to spend five minutes explaining to every applicant that, no, they need an actual survey.

    * neighbor verification? annoying for staff, very difficult for applicants. in my experience, 50% of homeowners can’t get one neighbor to agree on the location of a fence, let alone a chicken coop.

    I’d prefer to leave the number-of-units question to the landlord or condo association, minimal setbacks (so a coop in the middle of the yard can be easily okayed), moved to zero with neighbor permission, and no neighbor permission for the general case – we don’t require neighbor sign-off for your dog to poop in my front yard or yap its head off at my back fence, so why should we require it for my chicken to quietly mind its own business in my yard?

    Sure, this is displaying my general acceptance of chickens (my family had some when I was a kid). But regardless of my opinions on the birds, I can’t fault Ypsilanti’s Council when they discussed chickens two years ago and declined to consider an ordinance on the grounds that they couldn’t spare the staff time to handle permitting.


       —Murph    Jun. 11 '08 - 10:01PM    #
  28. I just spent a couple of weeks reading every avian influenza case report around the globe in 2007-2008. While Julie’s statistical point is well taken—I am sure the probability of getting toxoplasmosis in 2008 AA is higher than the probability of getting the current H5 version of avian influenza—I did come away wondering why Ann Arbor is going out of its way to add a local reservoir for the current #1 global pandemic threat. 50-80% of those infected have died—very sad. Thus far, almost exclusively with those exposed to poultry, or family members of those infected—the big concern is about the virus mutating to a more easily communicated form.

    While I agree that as of today the threat is not enough to worry, we’re going to feel pretty stupid if the bug mutates and then takes advantage of our neighborhood poultry. A case of a sure chance of a modest social advantage (chickens in the backyard, yay) versus a low chance of a horrible social cost.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 27 '08 - 04:23PM    #
  29. “Thus far, almost exclusively with those exposed to poultry”

    And in those cases, what was typically the density and proximity of the human an poultry populations in question?

    I have a hard time believing the amount of poultry allowed by the various US urban chicken regulations makes any significant contribution to the avian flu risk—but, hey, I’m no expert. Has anyone done any serious work on the question?


       —Bruce Fields    Aug. 27 '08 - 05:47PM    #
  30. A lot of the time, the cases were in the “poultry belt” of the country concerned. So good point.

    As I said, the concern is more if the disease mutates somehow. If that happens, I am sure the Washtenaw Country public health authorities will be quick to order a poultry cull.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 27 '08 - 05:56PM    #
  31. Fred said: “A case of a sure chance of a modest social advantage (chickens in the backyard, yay) versus a low chance of a horrible social cost.”

    Allowing for chickens is not just a modest social advantage, it’s a matter of national security. And lest you think I’m joking, think of it this way: a country which can produce food locally, by and for its citizens, is one which is less dependent on food from foreign sources (and foreign fuel to ship food long distances). Remember Victory Gardens?

    WIRED magazine just ran a piece on this very subject: Why Urban Farming Isn’t Just for Foodies

    Quote from the article: “Defense hawks ought to love urban farming, because it would enormously increase our food independence — and achieve it without the market distortions of the benighted farm bill. You don’t need tomatoes from Mexico if you can pluck them from containers on your office roof.”

    And you don’t need eggs from out of state if you can get them in your own backyard. Neighbors willing, of course.


       —Laura    Aug. 27 '08 - 07:27PM    #
  32. OK with me as long as you don’t try to hide your chickens when the department of public health wants to put them down. ;-)


       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 27 '08 - 10:30PM    #
  33. Mutations are MUCH more likely to arise and spread in factory farms with 100,000 chickens under one roof than among isolated groups of four in backyard henhouses.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 28 '08 - 04:04PM    #
  34. I don’t think this is so obvious. If we were actually going to distribute those 100,000 chickens more evenly throughout the community of consumers they serve, how much lower would the chicken density end up being? Would it be harder to respond to outbreaks? How much increased human/chicken contact would there be? Etc.

    But while that may be an interesting question for public health research, of course we’re nowhere near that situation—and it seems unlikely that the Ann Arbor chicken population would carry any significant risk for the forseeable future.


       —Bruce Fields    Aug. 28 '08 - 04:43PM    #
  35. my big concern about backyard chickens is how in heck ya gonna keep em down on the farm once they’ve seen gay paree?


       —peter honeyman    Aug. 29 '08 - 04:31AM    #
  36. > Neighbors willing, of course.

    I’d still like to know when we’re going to require neighbor permission and setbacks for keeping dogs. Dogs make a lot of noise, create manure problems (sometimes for blocks around), and are carriers of known-communicable diseases – not to mention maulings, which only Hitchcock would envision as a danger for chickens. All of these things which are mostly theoretical (and mostly unjustified) fears with regards to chickens are known nuisances with dogs.

    Which is why I’m still in favor of a very simple chicken ordinance – treat ‘em just like dogs.

    (Countdown to somebody announcing the formation of “Friends of the Ann Arbor Chicken Park”: 5, 4, 3 …)


       —Murph    Aug. 29 '08 - 09:52PM    #
  37. Chickens for national security? I resist the analogy to WWII Victory Gardens. As I recall, the Victory Gardens (and other such things as scrap metal collection drives) played a very small role in the war effort. They were put in place mainly to let the population as a whole feel that it was contributing to the war.


       —David Cahill    Aug. 30 '08 - 01:51PM    #
  38. I’m switching sides for a moment here, but isn’t it true that there is a body of thought that the urban lack of exposure to animal pathogens causes kids to grow up more allergy- and infection- prone?

    if I remember correctly, that’s one of the leading theories about the cause of asthma.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Aug. 30 '08 - 02:19PM    #
  39. For those who want the truth regarding bird flu please go to the following web site

    http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/

    It is not a matter of “if” bird flu will come to the USA, but “when”, it is slowly marching around the globe. The issue does not have to with whether the viruses will mutate and be more deadly to chickens. Viruses constantly mutate every time they infect a new host. This is why we cannot come up with a vaccine for the common cold, it constantly mutates.

    Currently, the bird flu virus has only sporadically mutated to a form that can infect humans, but this mutated virus cannot propagate in people and spread from person to person. The danger is if the bird flu virus mutates into a form that not only infects humans but also becomes contagious. A worldwide pandemic can follow if that happens.

    So the backyard chickens controversary is not about food supply or hygiene or pets. It is about giving more opportunity for a mutated bird virus to infect people and possible cause a pandemic.

    If people have chickens as pets, mutated viruses have any easier route into the human population. Migratory birds, not just other chickens, can infect backyard chickens. Chicken farms usually are kept indoors and do not get infected by migratory birds. However, if chicken farms are infected, there is limited human contact. The virus can be dealt with by destroying the flock.

    For those who think a flu pandemic is no big deal, google the 1918 pandemic flu.


       —Diane    Aug. 30 '08 - 06:13PM    #
  40. Diane, I agree with everything you were saying about the science, and the serious risks that are involved here. But, having said that, there is an element of quantitative risk analysis that is missing from your comments.

    When you say “giving more opportunity … to infect people and possibly cause a pandemic…”, how much more opportunity is Ann Arbor’s ordinance going to create? Surely we are, statistically, likely to be quite a minor player in the overall path of transmission.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have supported this ordinance, but as long as the public health authorities are ready to step in, I don’t see that it poses such a quantitatively significant risk as to require repeal.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Sep. 1 '08 - 01:29PM    #
  41. Is it ironic that the nationally-recognized advocate of urban chickens, Mr. Kunselman, finds himself as a lame-duck on City Council?


       —Mark Koroi    Sep. 2 '08 - 09:08PM    #
  42. Well it looks like swine flu has now reached Michigan (according to Mlive).

    Swine flu is less virulent than bird flu which is the reason why there have been so few deaths so far. However, people should pay attention to this. According to the CDC this strain is a cross between swine, bird and human flu viruses.

    Here are some links to the cdc that discuss bird flu and swine flu

    http://www.pandemicflu.gov/index.html

    http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/

    http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/


       —Diane    Apr. 27 '09 - 01:49PM    #
  43. Worrisome headlines, indeed. Might we be witnessing the arrival of an Aporkalypse?


       —Old Major    May. 10 '09 - 02:13AM    #
  44. The third U.S. swine flu death, a Washington state resident, was reported this morning.

    Several days ago, it was reported Washtenaw County had its first reported swine flu case.

    On the positive side, Mexico has repoted a decline in new cases and the epidemic appears to be subsiding in that nation.


       —John Dory    May. 10 '09 - 04:46PM    #
  45. If you read up on past pandemics, you will see that the worst part is still to come (if it comes at all). Typically these things start in the spring rather slowly and are not so virulent, they lie low in the summer and then come back with a vengence the following winter. What happens in the southern hemisphere in the next few months will be telling. There is no way to predict how deadly this pandemic may be. We will know in 6 months.


       —Diane    May. 11 '09 - 02:00PM    #
  46. Granted there is always some chance that a new flu mutation develops into an extraordinary health crisis. But when the media hypes fears that 1918 is about to return, the response easily gets overblown. Sometimes for political or commercial purposes.


       —Old Major    May. 13 '09 - 01:42AM    #
  47. The swine flu was just another “nine day wonder”, even further exaggerated by the media’s appetite for stuff to fill the 24/7 news hole.


       —David Cahill    May. 13 '09 - 01:56AM    #
  48. Actually, I don’t think it has been overblown at all. In fact it is not over yet. If we get through the next flu season without an increase in fatalities, then it is over.

    Would you rather have the government keep this under wraps until the major fatalities occur or would you rather be updated and warned about a real potential threat (a threat in which the level of danger cannot possible be calculated)?

    By trying to stop the spread while the pandemic is in the early stages, we have a chance (not a guarantee) to completely stop the outbreak. (remember the word pandemic only refers to the worldwide spread and not to the virulence of the virus)

    The federal government is actually being proactive for once; typically they wait until after the disaster to open their eyes. We shouldn’t criticize them for it.

    Remember back to when hurricane Katrina was anticipated. All the talk pre-storm was considered to be hype, but then the storm hit and caused more destruction then was predicted.

    We all know better now.


       —Diane    May. 13 '09 - 10:04PM    #
  49. Remember the bird flu menace? 8-)


       —David Cahill    May. 14 '09 - 05:27PM    #
  50. While the swine flu is fascinating, this is a thread about a city council meeting from June 2008, not a health policy forum.

    When the Avian Flu strikes Ann Arbor’s backyard chickens, we’ll create a thread about it. For now, all I think we’ve got to worry about is City government getting a light case of awards fever.


       —Matt Hampel for ArborUpdate    May. 14 '09 - 06:56PM    #
  51. Then, if I may rephrase thusly, let us draw lessons from the policy mistakes of the past so that we do not once again fall prey to Chicken Little, under whose guidance the fowl will surely come home to roost in our backyards — without permits.


       —Old General Everett Coop    May. 15 '09 - 12:30PM    #
  52. because of a discussion at another local conference, i wonder if there is a ‘count’ somewehre of how many ppl are ‘approved’ for chicken-raising. not necessarily who, but how many?


       —toasty    May. 21 '09 - 03:23PM    #
  53. … and following along, is there any thought to the ‘disclosure’ provision for real estate sales?

    i approved in writing ( in perpetuity ? ) my neighbor’s ‘privilege’ of growing chickens — and i buy her eggs JustBecause ™ — and the people who buy my house are p’ssd off when they find out and object to the chickens-next-door after the sale. now what?

    btw, this discussion/topic has reinvigorated my search for the simpler time that was my farming childhood. and i might follow my neighbor’s lead and also ‘grow my own’.

    anybody need some recyclable chicken feed? my carrots, tomatoes and peppers will have a sufficient supply for the next growing season.

    http://www.backyardchickens.com/


       —toasty    Jun. 2 '09 - 05:32AM    #