After months of discussing whether or not to allow the keeping of chickens within city limits, the Fountain Council has taken steps to put the issue on the general election ballot Tuesday, November 6.
Resident Emily Root first approached the council in May with a detailed plan for a secure coop in which to house 10 hens. At the time, the council did not have further questions for Root and noted no major objection. When she returned at the June meeting to hear their decision, she said she was blindsided by their decision to discuss the issue no further. Then, at the July meeting, Root attended with a petition from residents and support from others requesting the issue be discussed again. At that meeting, the council unanimously approved a motion to hold a public meeting on the issue.
Wednesday, August 1, the zoning ordinance was discussed once again, this time with City Attorney Dwight Luhmann present. The first issue of debate was whether or not the city could issue a Conditional Use Permit for chickens. “It’s not possible under the current ordinance,” noted Luhmann. “The R2 District lists conditional uses and this is not one. Ordinance 180.220 prohibits the use of buildings in the city for animal husbandry. If the council is inclined to change it, that’s another issue.”
Mayor Richard Kujath questioned whether the motion and second from the July meeting, to look into having a conditional use permit, would need to be rescinded. Luhmann affirmed the motion to hold a public meeting on the permit would need to be rescinded. The council did so unanimously.
Fountain resident Colleen Foehrenbacher requested permission to speak and asked to see minutes from the July meeting, noting her recollection was the motion was to hold a public meeting, but that conditional use permitting was not a part of the motion. City Clerk Rhonda Flattum provided a copy of the minutes and Foehrenbacher read the minutes recorded noting it approved a motion to hold a public meeting regarding the ordinance and that the permitting was not mentioned. Flattum responded noting it was on the assumption a Conditional Use Permit would be applied for.
“Is there other discussion you want to bring up?” Kujath asked the council. “What’s involved if we’re going to try and change the ordinance?”
While Luhmann noted it would take minor changes to amend the Conditional Use Permit Ordinance, he recommended against it. Instead, Luhmann’s recommendation was to have Planning and Zoning review and potentially put together a Zoning Chicken Ordinance and bring a recommendation back to the council. “There are lots of examples of these types of ordinances out there. It’s a process you want to look at pretty carefully. If Planning and Zoning recommends a change to the ordinance, you would need a public hearing.”
Councilor Jim Schott proposed another option. “I have a feeling people don’t want to say anything publicly. To be fair to everybody, could we put it on the ballot?”
“You could. I’m not sure it lends itself very well to that approach,” said Luhmann. “The devil is in the details. How do you pose the question?”
“I don’t want the town to start bickering back and forth,” responded Schott. “A vote, that’s their right. We could use that information and move forward; do it so everyone can have their input without being put out in front of everyone else.”
“They’ll come back and say, ‘We want a duck. We want a goat,” added Councilor David Gudmundson. “How long has this been going on? Four months? Now, not until November?”
“If it doesn’t pass, we’re done,” added Councilor Chad Wagnen. “With the comments I’ve been hearing, it’s good to put it out there for the public to vote on.”
Resident Tony Foehrenbacher, who spoke at the July meeting in favor of the keeping of chickens, requested permission to address the council and it was allowed. “What I’m hearing is you would like to see a vote to change the ordinance. If the voting population wants to, then you would delve into the details? That sounds like an excellent plan; sounds very reasonable,” he said. “It’s a great plan not to put the cart before the horse; a great way to find out without all the rigamarole.”
“Consider the vote a first step,” added Schott. “If they’re no, then there’s no sense in having a meeting and changing it.” He further debated whether or not a public meeting on the issue before the vote was needed. However, it was noted there is not enough time for the required public posting before the August 14 deadline to get an item on the ballot.
Luhmann will write up the question for the ballot, based off council direction, and Clerk Flattum will get it to the county prior to the deadline.
In other news, the council has unanimously passed a Code of Conduct Policy for public meetings. The 12-item policy has specific rules for those on the agenda and visitors to the meeting. Notable rules from the policy include: “Persons/organizations must notify the City Clerk’s office by the Monday prior to the City Council meeting to be added to the agenda and state their specific topic. The speaker may only address their topic on the agenda” and “The Fountain Council is in no way obligated to allow a person to be repeatedly placed on the agenda to revisit a specific topic that has previously been discussed.”
Additionally, speakers much wait to be recognized and identify themselves by name, address, and topic. Remarks are limited to three minutes and a speaker can address the council only once. “Visitors attending the meeting cannot take part in the council’s discussion at a meeting unless information or comments are requested by the City Council.” Comments are to be directed to the council and mayor only with discussion limited to the council and city staff. Those not complying with code of conduct policy and exhibiting unacceptable behavior may be asked to leave the meeting.
Karst Brewing’s Fresh Hops Event has been scheduled for Sunday, September 16, with an alternate date of Sunday, September 23, in case of inclement weather. The street from the corner of Karst Brewing to the beginning of the alley will be blocked for the event.
A separate event, the Fountain Pub Crawl, was briefly discussed by council. Details are still in the planning stages.
The preliminary budget will be discussed and determined by the council Wednesday, August 29, 7 p.m. The budget will be formally approved and submitted to the county in September.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Wednesday, September 5, at 7:30 p.m., at City Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.