Minnesota Cities Magazine

Two-Way Street: Does Your City Allow Bees or Farm Animals in Residential Areas?

SO15BrettSmithDasselBRETT SMITH
Deputy Clerk-Treasurer
Dassel

Dassel (population 1,462), home to the largest barbecued chicken gathering in Minnesota, did not permit the harboring of chickens in residential areas. The passion and initiative of various residents sought to abolish this contradiction by drafting an ordinance.

Setting parameters
These individuals, who have extensive knowledge, explained that allowing chickens would not only be useful for economic purposes, such as the laying and selling of eggs, but could also be educational for children. Supporters of the chicken ordinance and those with a first-hand account of raising chickens were adamant that by eliminating roosters and capping the number of chickens based on acreage, the city would be able to minimize any potential nuisances.

After hours of intense research and collaboration, a proposed ordinance was adopted on June 15, 2015. The ordinance allows for up to five hens on parcels under an acre, and up to 10 for those over an acre. The ordinance also requires maintaining chicken coops a minimum of 15 feet from a permit holder’s dwelling, 40 feet from adjacent dwellings, and 10 feet from lot lines. The ordinance does not allow for any farm animals other than chickens.

Opposition
The proposed ordinance was not without its detractors. Opponents of the ordinance argued that noise, odors, and lack of aesthetic appeal would create nuisances and civil unrest within the city. Attracting unwanted pests and rodents was also a primary concern.

At first glance, it may seem that the debate among residents would create tension, and those on the opposite ends of the spectrum would harbor bad feelings toward one another. However, I see the process as a “glass-half-full” situation because it spurred on community engagement. Citizens were presented with the opportunity to step up to the podium and be heard. It also showed that the city works for the people of Dassel and hones in on their best interest.

The passing of the chicken ordinance further opens the door for residents who may want to fight for issues they are passionate about. It has shown citizens that their influence can make an imprint on Dassel.

Good for community
I do not see ill will between the supporters and objectors of the chicken ordinance. Instead, residents displayed a healthy understanding and respect toward one another’s stance on the issue. This is what allows a community to thrive and unify.

SO15TimGladhillRamseyTIM GLADHILL
Community Development Director
Ramsey

The City of Ramsey allows bees and certain farm animals, including chickens, to be kept in residential areas. Ramsey is a developing community with a rural history. Our community of 24,300 people takes pride in maintaining a unique balance of rural and urban character.

Restrictions on farm animals
The first restrictions on the keeping of farm animals can be traced to 1980, when the community began to experience some of its first more urbanized development patterns. In 2002, during another significant growth period for Ramsey, the city began restricting the keeping of certain animals on less than 3 acres.

Many traditional farm animals are allowed on parcels that are at least 3 acres. This includes horses, which can also be kept on lots as small as 1.5 acres with the issuance of a conditional use permit (CUP).

Adding some flexibility
In 2012, Ramsey made a policy change to be more flexible on the keeping of some smaller farm animals in response to consistent resident feedback. The change was also prompted in part by city goals to focus on sustainability issues.

Chickens are now allowed on all residential properties. The number allowed is based on a sliding scale tied to lot size. Chickens must be kept in an enclosure and in sanitary conditions. The enclosure should include an area for exercise. Roosters or clucking hens are not allowed due to complaints about noise generated from these animals.

CUP process
Beekeeping is now also an allowable use with proper enclosures, setbacks, and flyway barriers. As with horses on lots smaller than 3 acres, a CUP is required for beekeeping. Some other animals (including dogs if a resident has four or more) also require a CUP. The purpose of this process is to allow for public comment, attach reasonable conditions, and better respond to instances of improper care.

This process for approval has been unpopular with some residents, however, so the city is considering amending its ordinances again to provide for a more streamlined and reduced cost approval process when compared to the city’s general CUP process. The city feels this balances the need for input from surrounding neighbors with the need for a process that is better sized to the actual request.

Read the September-October 2015 issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine

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