County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Council Gets Earful from Irate Rooster Raiser

Birds, birds, birds…when will it end?

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HARRISON – There has been a bird battle over raising chickens in the City of Harrison for some time now, having been both informative and at times heated. For years, the city has had an ordinance in place that stated “no farm animals” – which apparently has been regularly ignored.

Harrison City Council had heard from multiple people on the topic, some who wanted to raise chickens for the meat due to dietary constraints, and others for the homegrown “natural” meat and eggs. Having heard the case made by various residents, Council chose to pursue making an exception and instituting a specific chicken-raising ordinance. To that end, the first reading of Ordinance 2020-11 Chicken-Animals was done at the Aug. 22 council meeting, and the second reading at the Sept. 14 meeting.

That ordinance states the requirements for raising chickens within the city: permits to run Jan. 1-Dec. 31 (premises examination prior to issuance, same process annually for renewal); authorization; no roosters; inside penned-in area (no free range running around yards or neighborhoods); and a requirement to inform the city of how waste will be disposed of or utilized. The establishment of a permit fee amount (currently $50) and determination of how existing chicken owners will or won’t be charged for the remainder of the current year to be established at a future council meeting.

At the Oct. 5 council meeting, resident Mark McClellan objected to citations he had received for violations of that ordinance, specifically for raising/possession of a rooster. Following reported noise complaints, notices had been left by the city’s code enforcement department, followed by ticketing. McClellan took issue with the ordinance, saying it had not been a problem and now it is – at which point council member Joni Ashcroft explained that the city had recently made an exception to allow chicken raising for nutritional reasons.

Mayor Stacy Stocking advised McClellan to hold off doing anything with the rooster until he and the code enforcement officer had a chance to meet with the complainants in an attempt to defuse the situation.

McClellan returned to the Feb. 1 council meeting, and restated his objections to the ordinance/fining, and this time took pointed aim at Mike Freeman, code enforcement officer. McClellan accused the officer of singling him out and creating a problem where none had existed previously.

After hearing him out, council members reiterated that just because someone had not been ticketed previously, didn’t mean it was not a violation of the previous ordinance. In response, McClellan became increasingly agitated, taking issue with being ticketed.

The ordinance had allowed for retaining the rooster until the end of the year, when a new permit would need to be issued. Freeman reminded that after McClellan had attended the October meeting, the original ticket had been pulled.

McClellan further complained that Freeman drives by his house frequently, to which Freeman responded that he drives through all the neighborhoods nearly every day, as it is part of his job, and it has nothing to do with singling out any one individual. Also, assuring compliance with the premises examination prior to permit issuance would require Freeman’s physical presence on the property.

McClellan was reminded that there had been a first and second reading of the ordinance, where people were welcome to have voiced their opinion. And when he likened a crowing rooster to a barking dog, it was noted there is also a barking dog ordinance.

When he further questioned how it was council members are entitled to sit and decide what people have to abide by, council member Dave Rowe put it in basic terms:

“That’s what the council is elected to do,” he said. “Do you still have the rooster?”

McClellan: “Yes.”

Rowe: “Then you’re in violation – get rid of the rooster – problem solved.”

McClellan finished by claiming the code enforcement officer would not come on his property, and that he would simply get rid of his birds.

“Just get rid of them,” he said. “You won’t get my $50.”

Council member Connie Cauchi said that was his choice.

The mayor added that if people are going to be upset, the city could go back to no chickens.

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