Residents of Taylors Falls should watch their mail for a city survey on how they feel about raising chickens. For lots of five acres or more, a proposed ordinance would allow any neighbors to keep chickens without city permit. A group calling itself the “Taylors Falls Chicken Lovers” brought information to the city council meeting Feb. 10, noting that chickens are allowed by cities such as St. Croix Falls, Balsam Lake, Shafer, Lindstrom, Chisago City, Wyoming, Forest Lake and Stillwater.
Technically, raising chickens is allowed in Taylors Falls, too, but only currently on lots of at least 10 acres. The group is asking that people with smaller lots be permitted by the city to raise chickens as well, if those residents receive written consent from most of their neighbors. The group noted that the urban city of St. Paul allows chickens on properties with consent from 75 percent of neighbors in a 150-foot radius. Some who have raised chickens enjoy the fresh eggs along with free fertilizer for their gardens, according to Taylors Falls resident Julie Hildebrand who spoke to the council on her group’s behalf. As for animal waste, the group cited research which says 10 chickens together will not create as much as one 40-pound dog. If noise pollution is of greater concern, the group shared data that a chicken’s clucking (50 decibels from a 20-foot distance) will not reach half of the volume of power lawn tools such as mowers or leaf blowers further away (70 to more than 100 decibels at 50 feet).
Nonetheless, Mayor Mike Buchite and other council members noted this issue would involve a review of the city’s noise ordinance along with zoning considerations. Officials would also need to decide whether to allow more properties to raise chickens without permits or fees. The ordinances vary in other cities of Lindstrom, Shafer and St. Croix Falls charge permit fees of $25 while others allow the activity at zero administrative cost, according to Hildebrand. Council member Mary Jo Murphy noted that she has kept bees on her property, and she said anyone who is interested in keeping chickens would be wise to study the process ahead of time.
Murphy added that in North Branch, Community Education is partnering with Peterson’s North Branch Mill to host a “Backyard Chicken Raising 101” course 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 18. Council member John Tangen said many cities that have allowed chickens require the owners to take such courses. Taylors Falls officials expect to review a draft ordinance for the city in April or May. Hildebrand said that the season to order hens for egg production generally ends in June. Residents should expect to get survey cards on the subject later this month. Other city business Most land owners would likely agree that they would not want black bears in their yards, yet Mayor Buchite said there were more sightings last summer than in any previous year based on a volume of calls he received. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has shifted bear control duties to local governments while also confirming last summer that there appeared to be four bears living in Taylors Falls between Highway 95 and County Road 37. City officials are keeping one option on the table to contract with a Princeton man who will set live traps for bear, caging and euthanizing any caught bears at a cost to the city of $600 to $800 per incident.
For now, however, council directed staff to contact DNR officials for scheduling an educational program that will be promoted and open to the public. “I like this option better than all the others,” said council member Larry Julik-Heine. Mayor Buchite said he has heard from DNR officials that residents can take steps to not attract bears by keeping trash and bringing all bird feeders indoors overnight.
– Council decided against any relief of a $2,900 utility bill issued to the property owner of the former Valley Graphics building, on First Street. The city’s public works staff had questioned the most recent quarterly reading of 423,000 gallons of water use at the property, and staff discovered (with the building owner) that the water use was due to a malfunctioning toilet. Council agreed to follow precedent by allowing the building owner to schedule a monthly payment plan for the high utility bill.
– Council voted to approve expenses for staff attending continuing training sessions in the Twin Cities metro and St. Cloud. City Clerk-Treasurer Jo Everson asked for three nights of lodging when she will attend a four-day conference of the Minnesota Municipal Clerks and Finance Officers Association in St. Cloud. Seminars will include instruction on election training, computer software and technology, sales tax, personnel management and social media policies. Everson will also attend a one-day League of Minnesota Cities workshop, hosted by the University of Minnesota College of Continuing Education in St. Paul.
Public Works Superintendent Mike Kriz will get his tree inspection license renewed by completing a two-day course in March at Bethel University. Later in the spring, he will attend a three-day Metro District waterworks operator school in Minneapolis, coordinated by the state Department of Health. Kriz’s public works colleague Bill Neska will represent Taylors Falls at a three-day conference for wastewater operations, hosted by the state Pollution Control Agency at the Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park.