The citizens of Belgrade will decide once and for all on Nov. 2 whether to legalize the keeping of backyard chickens in the city limits.

Belgrade residents will vote on the same proposed chicken ordinance denied by the City Council in 2018. If approved, it will permit residents of single-family homes on lots larger than 7,000 square feet to keep as many as six hens or six mixed-sex domestic chickens under the age of 3 months, or any combination thereof not to exceed six total chickens per permit holder. Roosters would not be permitted.

The ballot issue is titled “City of Belgrade Adoption of Ordinance No. 2018-8.” The complete ordinance is posted on the city’s website.

The council’s no vote in 2018 was the fourth in 11 years, as the body had rejected similar proposals in 2014, 2010 and 2009. When chicken proponents approached the council in the summer of 2020 asking it to reconsider, Mayor Russ Nelson suggested they conduct a petition drive with the goal of gathering enough support to put the question on the ballot for Belgrade residents to decide.

Nelson argued it would be better for the citizens of Belgrade to decide the matter for themselves, rather than for the council to conduct another series of lengthy public hearings before voting on the question again. The council agreed to turn the process over to the citizens, and city staff and county elections officials helped the chicken proponents start an official petition.

Volunteers took up the challenge and gathered 1,008 signatures; however, fewer than the required 793 were validated, and the petition drive failed.

The petitioners approached the council late last year, describing the difficulties they encountered trying to gather signatures in the middle of a pandemic. They urged the council to follow through on the mayor’s idea to let the people of Belgrade decide, and the council voted to sponsor the ballot measure.

If it passes, the new law will not supersede rules set by individual homeowners associations, and the council will be able to amend the law after it is passed.