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Abby revisits ordinances, from UDC to chickens

Abby revisits ordinances, from UDC to chickens Abby revisits ordinances, from UDC to chickens

Abbotsford is the midst of a re-codification process that touches on everything from how many dogs a person can have in their home to what kind of setbacks someone needs to follow when building a new house.

It’s a monumental task. There are 15 chapters (called “titles”) to review, with some containing well over 100 pages of rules and regulations. Title 13, the one dealing with zoning, has 164 pages that govern what kind of development is allowable in various parts of the city.

An ad-hoc committee consisting of Alds. Jim Weix and Mason Rachu, along with city administrator Dan Grady, DPW Craig Stuttgen and utility manager Josh Soyk, has been tasked with reviewing the revised ordinances.

All municipalities go through these recodifi cation processes every five years or so, but this one has a rub — many of the ordinance changes that have been adopted by the city council over the years never made into the book of ordinances.

For example, in 2017, after months of debate over accessory buildings, the council voted to allow residents with a detached garage to also have one shed or other accessory building. Also, instead of putting a size limit on accessory buildings, the council voted to prohibit most residents from covering more than 40 percent of the lot with buildings (the limit was 50 percent for those with lots under 10,000 square feet).

However, not all of these changes were included in the most recently revised book of ordinances presented to the city by attorney Alan Harvey of DeForest.

In essence, if one were to read the updated book without knowing any better, it would be as if the council never voted the way it did back in 2017. The changes elected officials made are not there.

The same goes for a ban on pit bulls and other dangerous dog breeds passed by the council in 2016.

As written, the updated ordinance book would still allow residents to keep pit bulls and other breeds considered inherently vicious as long as they followed certain rules. This was not the council’s intention back in 2016, when it voted to ban the breeds outright.

In 2012, after state lawmakers passed a concealed carry law, the council voted to allow concealed firearms and other weapons in all city buildings, as long as the person has the proper permit.

However, the updated version says the opposite: concealed weapons are prohibited in all municipal buildings, including city hall.

Going back even further, to 2011, after a petition with 100 signatures was submitted by local home remodeler Jim Colby, the council voted to exempt older homes from UDC inspections.

Based on that vote, homes built prior to June 1, 1980, would not be subject to the Universal Dwelling Code during an addition or remodeling project.

Nevertheless, that exemption does not appear in the revised code of ordinances.

A review by the Tribune-Phonograph found about a dozen other ordinance changes made over the last six to eight years that did not make into the book.

Grady says the city council will have an opportunity to reconfirm these decisions — or make changes — when it votes to approve the newly revised book of ordinances.

Residential chickens?

Besides pit bulls, the council also addressed another animal-related matter in 2016 — whether or not residents should be allowed to keep chickens in their houses.

At that time, proposals from council members were all over the map.

Ald. Gerry Anders at one point proposed eliminating a provision that allows people to keep up to two fowl in their house.

“I see no sane reason people need to keep fowl in the city, period,” Anders said at a May 31, 2016, meeting. “If you want to buy a farm, go buy one in the country.”

Ald. Lori Voss, however, questioned whether the farm animal restriction was necessary for larger-sized residential lots with plenty of space between neighbors. She noted that she was granted a temporary exemption to keep a horse on her property when it was first annexed into the city from the town of Hull.

“I can see if you’re in a real tight neighborhood and you don’t want all the animals next door,” she said. “You’re going to have smells.”

Anders said he would be open to issuing conditional use permits to those who have a certain amount of square footage on their lots.

“We just don’t want one in a 10,000-square-foot lot,” he said.

A proposal to allow farm animals on lots with five contiguous acres (250,000 square feet) or more made it to the council, but it was never adopted. Instead, council members decided to leave the two-bird limit intact for all residents.

Now, for reasons that remain unclear, the updated book of ordinances includes an entirely new section — 7-1-26 — that allows the keeping of up to eight chickens on residential parcels for those who obtain a permit from the city and abide by certain rules.

Under this ordinance, residents could have chickens, ducks, pigeons and quail in their homes as long they are kept in coops or pens most of the time.

Up to five chickens could be kept on residential lots of 20,000 square feet or less, and beyond that, one more chicken can be added for every extra 3,000 feet, up to eight total chickens.

To qualify for a permit, a resident would need to submit a site plan for their chicken coops, agree to inspections and pay a permit fee. Those living in multifamily dwellings would also need to get permission from neighbors living in the same building.

Permits would be valid for one year, expiring on Jan. 31, and could be revoked for a “serious violation” of the ordinance rules or a “material misstatement or omission” on the permit application.

A written complaint filed by another citizen could also result in the permit being revoked, based on the review of the clerk-treasurer “or other enforcement official.”

The ordinance also sets standards for chicken coops, which must be at least 10 feet away from any lot line and no closer than 25 feet to a neighboring residence. Coops would also not be allowed “in the street or side yard,” as defined in the city zoning code.

Sanitary standards and other issues with noise, odor and manure are also covered in the ordinance.

Roosters would not be allowed, except on parcels that are 40,000 square feet or larger.

The sale of eggs would be allowed, but the raising of chickens for sale or breeding would not. Also, any slaughtering would have to be done indoors and out of public view.