Three Portland residents spoke out in opposition to the city’s domesticated fowl ordinance at the first meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) in the new council meeting room. Several people have received citations issued by Animal Control Officer Jamie Weekley for violating the ordinance.
The current ordinance was approved Oct. 21, 2019. Residents are allowed three domesticated fowl on residential lots with a minimum lot size from 7,000 to 10,000 square feet. Six are allowed on lots from 10,001 to 20,000 square feet. Roosters are not allowed in the ordinance.
There are other regulations regarding waste disposal and other prohibitions listed in the ordinance. Domesticated fowl are described in the ordinance as female chickens, ducks, pheasants, and similar fowl.
Wes Lugten addressed the council during public recognition regarding a citation he had received from Weekley for having too many chickens. He complained that he had asked for an extension but was given a citation instead.
Lugten said that there had been no complaints from the neighbors. He stated that the citation had caused emotional stress on him and his wife. He said that his chickens were fenced in and none were free range. He added that the chickens were a food supply.
Rachel Harmon and Tanya Dubowyk spoke requesting that the regulation banning roosters be lifted and asked that one rooster per household be added to the ordinance. Harmon mentioned that roosters are good for flock continuation and flock protection.
Hamon said, “I have one and he is my baby and if I have to get rid of him for you, I’m going to cry. My kid will, too.”
Alderman Mike Hall reminded everyone that he did not vote for the ordinance when it was passed because he wanted to go in a different direction. He added that there is no limit to the number of dogs a person can have. He added that in his neighborhood someone had six pit bulls, and one neighbor had a hog in his back yard.
“One man’s dog is another man’s chicken,” Hall said. “Pigs, pit bulls, goats, and sheep are higher on my list than chickens.”
The rules were suspended to allow Lugten to speak again. He asked the aldermen if they thought it was right for animal control to use social media to track the people that have chickens. He stated that animal control was using HIP Portland pages, Middle Tennessee Poultry pages, and Middle Tennessee Chicken pages to find out who have chickens. Alderman Thomas Dillard defended the animal control officer by stating that she was just doing her job.
Hall entered the discussion again by adding that there was a path to follow in dealing with personnel issues. He encouraged people to go first to the chief of police, then the chief would go to the mayor and that human services could get involved. He added that there was nothing the council could do involving personnel matters.
Portland Police Chief Jason Williams asked to speak to the ordinance stating that they were there to discuss the ordinance. He added that the animal control officer does not have the discretion to give an extension on the ordinance. He told the council that an ordinance is enforced as it is written. His department did not have any control over extensions on any ordinance because that is how it works.
Williams said, “What we are here for today is the ordinance. All other is procedural stuff. If there is an issue, that’s for me and my staff to address. You are welcome to talk about that to the department. Tonight, we are here to talk about zoning regulations. I personally don’t have an opinion about the number, but I need to caution you that the number just can’t be subjective. How it’s written is how we are going to enforce it.”
City Attorney John Bradley stated that the ordinance was only up for discussion at this meeting. He suggested that the council allow him to prepare an amended ordinance for the next meeting which would guide the discussion. He asked the aldermen if they had any specific amendments they wanted to make to the ordinance that they call the mayor or him, adding he would take the amendments suggested and prepare an ordinance. The BOMA agreed to allow Bradley to prepare the ordinance with amendments to present at a meeting in April or May.