MANSFIELD, Ohio -- Several people addressed Mansfield City Council Tuesday night, oppositing legislation that would allow more city residents to raise chickens.
Members of Citizens for Mansfield Backyard Chickens presented the backyard chickens proposal at a previous meeting. The group formed last year to study the feasibility of revising Mansfield's code to allow more residents to raise chickens, increasing the availability of fresh eggs.
But some Mansfield residents disagree.
Sherrie Hartz, 583 McPherson St. said she is a landlord in the process of selling her three properties. She's concerned the chickens ordinance would deflate property values.
"Do I drop my price, or I do hold out until somebody comes along that doesn't mind living beside chickens," she asked. "That's the only way I'll know."
Bellville resident Candace Harrell, a member of Citizens for Mansfield Backyard Chickens, said that according to Pat Foreman's book, "City Chicks," seven of 10 cities in Forbes Magazine's most desirable cities list for 2010 allowed backyard chickens.
"And there has never been a case that we are aware of where property values have dropped because of backyard chickens," she said. "Property values will just as easily drop because your neighbors don't clean up after their dog or have trash on their front porch."
Randy Leedom, of 97 Westgate Drive, said he's not sure fresh eggs are a necessity, adding that eggs can be purchased locally at multiple outlets.
However, Bill Baker, another member of Citizens for Mansfield Backyard Chickens, said that he visited stores in his neighborhood on the north end of the city and there weren't any fresh dairy products available at the time, he said. He said he walked to two Dollar Stores, and one was sold out of dairy products and the other store didn't have electricity.
"There were dairy products in the cooler, but they were tied shut with ice bags inside," he said.
He added that not everyone in his neighborhood has access to transportation.
Harrell also noted that backyard eggs are often healthier than those found in local stores.
"There's a huge difference in quality of the eggs," she said.
Some who addressed council said the chicken ordinance could potentially pave the way for people to own other farm animals on their properties.
Leedom said the city already faces "plenty of issues" with dogs.
"I don't think we really need a chicken warden at this point," he said. "So I urge you please to consider this as unnecessary legislation because the negatives far outweigh the positives."
Some residents who spoke up are concerned about potential problems with cleanup.
"We already have a problem with people who can't keep their front porches cleaned up and can't keep their trash cans off the street at a reasonable time of day," said Gloria Curtis of 156 Ohio St.
Michelle Swoope of 86 Westgate Drive also opposed the legislation.
"I won't be able to sit out on my patio and enjoy what I have worked hard for because you have to smell the chickens and listen to all that noise."
Harrell, who has raised chickens for several years, said the odor produced by six chickens manure pales to that of one dog.
Baker said it would be about a $500 investment for an individual to raise backyard chickens as outlined in the ordinance.
Fifth Ward Councilman Jason Lawrence said he thinks that people who would invest that kind of money would most likely take care of their chickens properly.
Mansfield codes and permits director J.R. Rice said that while he neither opposes nor supports the legislation, he's concerned it might put a burden on his department.
"It's a chore sometimes to keep up with the blight in Mansfield without adding more burden to my department with chickens," he said.
Harrell responded to other concerns that residents discussed--one was the possibility of chickens attracting nuisances like raccoons. Harrell noted there is a large population of geese and ducks at North Lake Park.
"If we were going to have a serious predator, we wouldn't have that number of geese that we have over there," she said.
Another issue brought up was disease.
Harrell said, "No illnesses related to chickens have been reported in Richland County."
Jean Taddie of the North End Community Improvement Collaborative said she's been approached by people who want to raise chickens in Mansfield. She called the proposed legislation "conservative" and said it takes the community members' protections very seriously.
Matthew Stanfield, chairman of Citizens for Mansfield Backyard Chickens, said among the benefits of the legislation is that it promotes self-sufficiency.
He noted that most progressive cities throughout the country allow backyard chickens.
"It would take Mansfield forward," he said of the ordinance. "It would be better for the community as a whole to have that more progressive-feel to it."