Elk River’s for the birds

by Kurt Nesbitt
Contributing Writer
Good news, chicken lovers.
The Elk River City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance on May 15 to allow more city residents to keep chickens on their property.
The change will not allow residents to keep free-range chickens — chickens that are not kept in cages or other kinds of enclosures — on their property. But those who live on lots as small as 2.5 acres will be allowed to have chickens without a permit.
The change brings Elk River in line with other neighboring communities. Otsego allows 10 chickens per acre and doesn’t require a minimum lot size. Ramsey allows six to 48 chickens on lots that are less than 3 acres and has a sliding scale for properties larger than that. Other communities, such as Big Lake and St. Michael, don’t allow chickens on smaller lot sizes.
Questions and concerns about the issue came to Elk River city officials so often they made two surveys of area residents and found that the public supports ordinance changes.
According to city staff, about 70 percent of the 256 responses to the city’s first survey wanted an ordinance for keeping chickens on properties inside the city smaller than 5 acres.
The city assembled another survey in March and found “50-50” support for the change. City officials used the feedback from those two surveys to draft the change adopted Monday night.
Based on that feedback, the ordinance says residents who live within city limits can have no more than 12 chickens on lots between 2 1/2 and 5 acres, regardless of which zone their property is in. Chicken keepers must have a fully enclosed coop or run area and can only have them in their backyards. Chicken areas can’t cover the entire yard area and can’t be any larger than 10 square feet per chicken.
Chicken areas also have to be at least 10 feet from the side and rear property lines. No conditional-use permit is required for the first 12 chickens on lots 2.5 to 5 acres in size. No roosters will be allowed without a conditional-use permit.
Enforcement of the new change will be made on a complaint basis, according to city documents.
Elk River City Planning Manager Zack Carlton said no further action regarding chickens is coming to the council, but said city officials can revisit and revise the ordinance if more concerns or issues come up in the future.
In other business, the Elk River City Council:
•Approved a special event permit requested by the American Truck Historical Society. The group can now hold a truck show from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at the GATR Truck Center lot at 10743 168th Circle. No parking is allowed on 171st Avenue.
•Approved a special event permit requested by Broadway Bar and Pizza. A car show will be outside the restaurant, located at 16754 Highway 10, on Sunday, June 11, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
•Approved a special event permit for Zylstra Harley-Davidson for several events coming up in 2017. All of them will be held at the dealership at 19600 Evons St. NW.
•Hired Melanie Crayford as office assistant for the city Fire and Building Safety division. Crayford worked as an receptionist and office assistant for the city of Otsego.
•Approved a conditional use permit for MJ Micek Transport at 522 Dodge Ave. The Blaine-based freight hauler will sell cars at the Elk River location, city documents said.
•Continued to June 19 a public hearing on a plat update requested by John Lenz, who is looking for access to a frontage road.
•Continued to June 5 a preliminary plat update for the Miske Meadows subdivision, since changes to the stormwater plans require additional study.
•Continued to July 3 a public hearing on a modification to the Beaudry redevelopment project. The council also voted to continue a related public hearing on the proposed zoning change, conditional use permit and plat for the Beaudry truck shop on Proctor Avenue to June 19.