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Posted: Friday, January 22, 2010 12:00 am

Belgrade council nixes proposal to allow residents to own backyard fowl

Opponents of a Belgrade ordinance amendment to allow backyard chickens came out in force Tuesday to let their voices be heard, and the Belgrade City Council listened.

The council denied the measure on a 4-2 vote, effectively ending a five-month debate for the second time. In November, the council killed the amendment on a split vote.

For the most part, residents opposed to urban fowl have been silent since the issue cropped up in September, but a handful of residents made their way to the podium Tuesday armed with a 55-name petition and spoke out against the move.

"I grew up on a farm and that's were chickens belong," said resident Sandy Lee.

Joel Murdy said his daughter suffers from asthma and the family has made strides, at great financial stress, to keep her in good health. Chickens, he said, would wreak havoc on those like his daughter and would attract rodents, diminish property values and act as a "slippery slope" for allowing other barnyard animals.

"In the summertime it's going to smell," he said. "You know there's going to be problems. There's going to be strife. It's going to be divisive."

Kledia Colenso has been in the fray since the beginning and was the lone chicken supporter who spoke in favor of the amendment Tuesday. She said her family is well versed on potential problems and asked the council if some type of probationary period could be enacted to keep tabs on possible offenders.

"We did a lot of research for this thing and there won't be a lot of hanging issues," she said, adding, "I doubt the whole town would be interested in this."

Council members said opponents have stepped up and increased calls and contacts to council members asking to nix the ordinance as the Tuesday public hearing drew near.

But council members also said they sympathized with Colenso's plight.

"I know you would do a great job," Councilwoman Anne Koentopp told Colenso. "I am, however, reticent that if we got started on this, what would it take for city services? I don't see us having the resources."

Councilman Mark Criner had voted in favor of the issue throughout the process, but changed his vote Tuesday due to protests from residents. He also agreed that Colenso would be an ideal candidate to own urban chickens.

"I'm sure it would be clean on your place," he told Colenso. "I've received a handful of calls and they were all against having chickens in town, particularly their neighbors having chickens."

Mayor Russ Nelson was responsible for bringing the issue around for a second look. He was absent during the first vote that ended in defeat when the council split the vote 3-3. At that time, Nelson said the ordinance needed another round of debate.

"It's good to have this additional time to have people come out and speak," he said. "It was good for those who are for and good for those who are not for chickens."

Belgrade is the third municipality in the Gallatin Valley that has addressed residents' request for backyard chickens. The city of Bozeman approved an ordinance last year and the town of Manhattan approved the measure last week.

© 2015 The Belgrade News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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