By Terry Rogers
Joey Phillips, co-owner of Causey Mansion, said that as someone raised in the city, he thought it would be an interesting experience to raise farm animals. With backyard chickens becoming popular throughout the country and many suburban areas allowing chickens on a small scale, he and his husband, Jan Broulik felt that adding a small flock of chickens would be an added benefit to their bed and breakfast.
“A dozen egg layers on our back acre would have been a nice added touch for guests staying with us,” Mr. Philips said. “In addition to the eggs at breakfast, many city people find the farming life more and more interesting. The idea of self-sustainability and green living is becoming a movement. I wanted to jump on board and try to promote the movement.” Causey Mansion sits on over three acres of land.
The request to add chickens was presented at the Community Affairs Committee several months ago and the committee felt that an ordinance allowing chickens in town limits, which currently was not permitted, would be beneficial. An ordinance was presented to the Planning Commission in December to allow chickens on properties of an acre or more within town limits.
At a public hearing held before the Planning Commission, Suzannah Frederick, who lived at 405 S. Walnut Street, stated that she also would like to add a flock of chickens on her land, but that she only had just over one-third acre of land. She asked that the Planning Commission consider lowering the acreage requirement. According to Rob Pierce, City Planner, the City of Dover allows chickens in city limits on lots of one-quarter acre or more.
“The one-acre size may have been put there because of avian flu, which was a problem last year,” Commissioner Andrew Fulton said. “If someone’s chickens were found to be carriers or sick, since the chickens are registered by the Department of Agriculture, there is a quarantine area around the domicile of a three-mile radius because we have such a large poultry industry here. The quarantine area must stay dormant for six months, every chicken slaughtered and mulched into the ground. These are still active regulations in case another epidemic occurs.” A motion was made to allow chickens on lands of one-third of an acre or more. The motion failed with a four to two vote with only Commissioner Fulton and Commissioner Raymond Lynch voting yes.
A second motion was presented to the Planning Commission to approve the ordinance with the one-acre requirement. The motion failed with a vote of three to three with Commissioners Fulton, Lynch and Chairman Marvin Sharp voting no. On Monday, January 23, 2017, the decision of the Planning Commission was presented to City Council. City Solicitor David Rutt explained that, although the Planning Commission recommended not passing the ordinance, City Council was not bound to follow their recommendation. Mr. Rutt also explained that if City Council voted against the motion, it could not be presented for approval for one year after the denial.
“My objections are the same as they have always been,” Councilwoman Katrina Wilson said. “this will be difficult to monitor. People will feel as if they are being discriminated against because someone else with less land may want chickens. Years ago, this was our reason for not allowing chickens and other livestock in town limits. The proximity to neighbors is a problem.” Councilman James Starling pointed out that the City allowed livestock many years ago and it was a problem with pigs, chickens, horses and other animals getting loose and causing problems.
Councilman Chris Mergner asked if a permit could be required and that it come before the Planning Commission so neighbors could express any concerns. Mr. Pierce explained that anyone who wants to have chickens would be required to request permission under the ordinance. He explained that there were not many lots in the city that were as large as an acre and, although there were more lots that were more than one-third of an acre, even those were relatively rare. Councilman Archie Campbell mentioned the comments about avian flu and wondered if anyone had reached out to Perdue regarding the matter.
A motion was made to deny the request to allow chickens in city limits. The denial was upheld with a vote of five to two with Councilwoman Lisa Peel and Councilman Jamie Burk casting the dissenting votes.
Mr. Phillips said that he would probably not reapply for permission to raise chickens, but that he hopes that the tie vote at Planning Commission was a way to make the request known to the neighbors to see. He said he knows City Hall publishes such things but was not sure how many people in town actually see what is discussed. He believes that if more people see the information in the media, they will be able to express opinions.
“After attending a few levels of the debate, I was expecting a big no,” Mr. Phillips said. “I was not putting all my eggs in one basket. I have not been officially notified yet and am not sure if that is even part of the process, but if the vote was close, it appears that council may not see a problem with backyard chickens and it is an acreage problem. I want to thank all the council members. I witnessed the many hours they spent on this issue at City Hall and realize that they most likely spent four times as much more research the topic. The effort is appreciated.”
In addition to the denial of the ordinance to allow chickens, Council also approved a zoning change for the former Lou’s Bootery building. The building, which was purchased by Dan Bond, will be completely renovated with retail space on the first floor and apartments on the second floor.
“All the windows that are currently bricked will be opened,” Mr. Bond said. “We are removing the current canopy and replacing it with a more historic one. This project could not have happened without the Downtown Development District designation. I think that with those grants and other funding sources I have identified, this may be a break even commercial operation for me. That was not quite the case with another project, what you all probably know as the old Jewell’s Store. That project was much more complicated than this will be, but I am very pleased I will be able to save a piece of Milford’s history, a building whose history extends beyond Milford.”
Council voted seven to zero to approve the zoning change. They also voted seven to zero to approve a new zoning classification for the Riverfront Development District, a mixed-use building along the river that was identified in the Riverwalk Rebirth plan. Councilman Wilson said that they only request she had was to make sure there was a plan for relocating the basketball courts as that was the most common request she received from her constituents. Mayor Bryan Shupe said that they would include that in the Request for Proposal and were also considering asking the developer to add a public restroom.