Anderson halts backyard chicken proposal after ’emotional’ debate arises

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ANDERSON, Ind. -- A city commission has tabled a proposal to legalize backyard chickens, citing "emotional" arguments on both sides that have taken up too much time.

Those comments came from the head of Anderson's planning commission Tuesday night. The commission has been discussing a backyard chicken proposal, as well as a beekeeping proposal, since earlier in the year.

Right now, it's illegal to have livestock and certain animals on your property. There is a process, however, where you can apply for a variance that makes an exception. In order to complete that process, your neighbors are alerted and a hearing is held.

Upon learning of the proposal to legalize hens, resident Steve Paul circulated a petition against it.

"I thought it was ridiculous that they would even be spending their time doing this," Paul said.

Paul was concerned about property values, saying he believes chickens are better suited to rural areas.

"Most people couldn’t believe that that could happen, that your next door neighbor could put a chicken coop in their backyard," Paul said.

Urban chickens are becoming more popular, though, and many cities have allowed them with certain restrictions. Teresa Pruitt said she supported the idea, and would like to have chickens herself.

"The grandkids I know, would thoroughly enjoy them. ... We’re retired, we have time," Pruitt said.

She said that she believed the idea of urban chickens was misunderstood.

"My opinion is, tonight, the council people chickened out. They didn’t want to continue to address the issue," Pruitt said.

Zoning administrator Micah Mitchell said that despite all the talk, there are actually people in Anderson who already own chickens illegally.

"I’ve not run through anybody so far that actually has gone through (the process). Most people have said that they didn’t even know it was against the ordinance," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said that he didn't get many complaints, until this proposal first came about.

"Generally it’s not been a big deal, but here the last six or eight months, all of a sudden it’s kind of blown up," Mitchell said.

The plan commission voted 7-1 Tuesday night to table the proposal, saying it would like more people to apply for the variance so that there's more data showing whether urban chickens have support within the community or not.