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Cockadoodle DON'T: City divided, chicken ordinance fails

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AUDIO: Robin Boss says no to chickens

The attached audio file contains the voice of Robin Boss, a resident of the SE side who showed up at tonight's meeting in opposition of the city chickens. Several people, including some familiar faces from the public hearing, attended the meeting tonight to get in a final word before the vote. This time public opposition outweighed support.

The failure of the ordinance to pass means city residents may not keep a chicken coop in their backyards.

The failure of the ordinance to pass means city residents may not keep a chicken coop in their backyards. /Stephen Woods

Following a failed motion from Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss to delay the vote, the city chickens ordinance failed this evening 3-3. Bliss, Ruth Kelly and Mayor George Heartwell voted in favor of the proposal, while Walt Gutowski, Dave Shaffer and Elias Lumpkins opposed. Commissioner James White was absent from the vote.

The prospect of chickens in Grand Rapids gave rise to heated public debate over the last few months, and several commissioners tonight felt that they needed more information before they cast their vote. Others, like Commissioner Gutowski, argued that enough time has been spent on the issue.

"I have received a number of comments from constituents who really feel that our time could be used more wisely," stated Gutowski in opposition to the delay. Commissioner Bliss defended her request as follows, "Absolutely, we have a lot of things before us. That's part of our job. We multitask all the time."

Commissioner Lumpkins offered the absence of Commissioner White as a secondary reason to delay the vote, but the motion to postpone failed 3-3. Bliss then proposed an amendment to the ordinance which would require households to gain the written support of 100 percent of their neighbors before acquiring chickens. The original language required 50% support. This amendment also failed 3-3.

Pro-chicken commissioners felt that a middle ground could be reached on the issue with enough research and regulation. Those against it felt that the city's already strained resources would go to waste on the implementation of the ordinance. Commissioners on both sides stated that they were answering to their constituents with their votes.

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We need more folks like you stepping up to cover our neighborhood issues and City decision-makers. Kudos.

I appreciate the to-the-point coverage of this interesting issue. 

Did commissioners actually cite an episode of Dirty Jobs as part of their justification, or is that just a rumor going around. It is almost too much to believe. 

The MLive article said that they did. Linda Gellasch saw the print version, and the article also said they cited it.

I like your audio, Carolyn! It's refreshing to hear directly from an ordinance non-supporter who is a resident rather than a politician.

Carolyn, this is a great piece!  I love the mix of audio reactions with facts about the failed ordinance.  Wonderful job:)

I am personally dissapointed this failed.  Large and small cities across the US (including New York, LA, and Chicago) allow backyard chickens with reasonable restrictions.  I hope the issue will again come before the comission some time in the future with a different outcome.  In the mean time, I hope those who already have or want chickens will try the "Right to Farm" approach I've seen mentioned in a few discussions!