Editor's Note: The last paragraph of this story was updated to reflect this issue will be back on the board's agenda in August, not July as originally stated.
LESHARA – Chicken is on the plate for the Leshara Board of Trustees.
The board called a special meeting June 18 to look at bids for gravel road maintenance and repair and to discuss the issue of chickens.
The board will contract with the Leshara Township for road maintenance needs, but the meat of the discussion last week dealt with what the town already had on the books for chickens and whether they should be allowed.
The discussion actually started at a previous meeting, after new residents to town made a request to raise chickens to butcher for their own use.
Board Chair Jason Camenzind said the initial question had to be what was already allowed by town regulation and zoning laws.
Village Attorney Maureen Freeman-Caddy was asked for a legal opinion and her letter was presented at the meeting.
The lawyer pointed out there were some restrictions for poultry written into the zoning ordinances, but only in ag and trans-ag use areas. Raising of poultry for commercial use is not allowed in ag zones and the trans-ag district does not say that chickens are banned outright.
Freeman-Caddy called the language in the zoning ordinances “very clunky” in regards to the issue.
Even in residential zones, there is no restriction for a hobby or pet, but chicken raising is not defined as a permitted use.
“If you are concerned about this at all, I would recommend that such restrictions should be in your regular ordinance book, not in the zoning ordinance,” she wrote in her opinion. “They would state what animals are permitted, where, whether there were are certain numbers allowed and whether there is a setback from property lines to allow them.”
Jason Camenzind said there does not appear to be an outright ban, but there does not appear to be parameters for what is allowed.
“None of that is clearly defined,” he said.
If the village wants to allow chickens, he said there should be appropriate language developed.
Board Member Dale Johnson agreed. If chickens are allowed, he said there should be a permit fee, considerations for nuisance ordinances and number limits. He also proposed that no roosters be allowed and other confine restrictions be considered.
Board Member Miranda Moisant-Hlavac has already conducted some research into what is allowed in other towns and cities.
Omaha and Lincoln both allow chickens, and she said they have various regulations for everything from lot size to pen size to the allowable number.
Moisant-Hlavac said if the village pursues an ordinance to allow chickens, it should take into considering all aspects.
“People with smaller yards may not even qualify,” she said.
It was pointed out that some chickens already exist in town.
A handful of residents were also at the meeting last week. When queried if they would like to have chickens in town, the hand raising for yes and no was about evenly split.
No decision was scheduled at the June 18 meeting.
Moisant-Hlavac will continue to research ordinances from other communities and will collect public comment as well.
The issue is expected to be discussed again at the board’s Aug. 6 meeting.