Ordinance banning chickens in Rockford challenged

Although it’s often been pondered — which came first, the chicken or the egg? — in Rockford, a change to the city’s Domesticated and Non-Domesticated Animal Ordinance came after complaints surfaced about the noise and smell associated with raising chickens and turkeys within city limits. Some homeowners attended the council’s June 11 meeting to express their objection to the code change. Rockford resident Perry Begin was the first to address the council, and had props. He showed the council two eggs, one he said was from Rockford, and fresh, and one that was from Minneapolis and was probably not. He emphasized this point throughout his comments. “Chicken’s been around in Rockford forever, right?” Begin asked the Council. “If you don’t like chickens, move to Minneapolis.” He proceeded to question the council over the process it used in passing the changes to the city ordinance, suggesting they should have solicited input from residents prior to taking action. Councilor Rick Martinson explained to Begin that it was in response to resident input that action had been initiated, and that council meetings are open to the public. Martinson said that there had been multiple complaints to other councilor members and staff regarding fowl being raised in the city. Begin asked that the decision be reversed, and Rockford Mayor Renee Hafften explained to Begin that Open Forum was a platform for the public to speak directly to the council, but that action or response was not required and a decision regarding a reversal or change would not be taken at this meeting. Rockford residents and chicken owners Charlie and Meda Rogich both spoke on the ordinance revision and their objections to it. The Rogiches said they have thousands of dollars invested in their animals, and that they are responsible owners who had the support of their neighbors. They added that they had checked with city staff prior to purchasing the birds to make sure they would be in compliance, and felt that if the new ordinance language stands, although they would like to see it changed, they should at least be grandfathered in and allowed to keep raising chickens. Meda Rogich provided council and staff a copy of research done for the City of Golden Valley on urban farming in which it was determined that chickens be considered domesticated fowl. This item was first discussed at the council’s June 14 meeting, and the ordinance was revised in a 4-0 vote during a June 28 meeting. The council will review the information, and take the comments made, under advisements, and will address this issue again at the July 9 Rockford City Council Meeting. If you would like to chime in on this issue, visit the city’s Facebook page where this question is posted: Should chickens be allowed in Rockford’s residential neighborhoods? This is a hot topic, and there are several postings that run the gamut. In other news, the council approved closing city hall on the Friday, July 5, and office employees will use personal time off. The public works department will remain open. The council also gave Wenck and Associates the go ahead to take over the wastewater treatment facility project as the city’s new engineering firm. The improvement is mandated by the Pollution Control Agency and has deadlines that must be met, so Rockford Public Works Supervisor, Dennis Peterson, was concerned that going out for proposals, as previously discussed, would have to be moved on immediately. “If Wenck’s going to be there for us,” said Councilor Jeannette Graner in recommending Wenck proceed on the project, “then they need to hit the ground.” Agreeing, Councilor Martinson added, “They’ve been hired. That’s the way to go, from the frying pan into the fire.” The next regular meeting of the Rockford City Council is Tuesday, June 25, at 7 p.m. at the Rockford City Hall, 6031 Main St.