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Council hears from citizens discusses chickens, zoning

By: Katherine Trowbridge

Citizens came to speak out at the Sept. 6 Connell City Council meeting. Some were in favor of chickens, some weren’t, some had issues with the city, others just wanted to set the record straight.

The meeting got underway with a public hearing to extend the moratorium on large-scale solar energy facilities. City Administrator Cathleen Koch presented the staff report sharing that the item was brought back so, therefore a public hearing could be held. Staff recommends keeping a moratorium in place.

Amy Davis spoke against the solar farm sharing, “The city is currently pushing for the solar farm that does not provide any immediate or long term lasting benefits to the citizens. It wastes some of the best development space in our area while drawing minimal tax benefits… If they’re using our land, there’s no opportunity for us to expand or continue to grow as a city.”

Pam Welch also spoke in agreement with Amy, reminding the city of their mission statement. Helen Tobin asked if the council and city toured, researched other solar farms and the cost to the city. Tobin spoke of the council touring skate parks when looking to bring one here, sharing, “This is way more important.”

The council approved Ordinance 1034-2023 to extend the moratorium on energy projects.

A public hearing was also held in regards to updates to the animal control codes. Chief Chris Lee presented the staff report sharing that city council had received presentations, engaged in discussions and been provided recommendations by city staff to amend portions of the city’s animal code including step fines, barking dogs, and a provision for chickens.

Davis spoke once again stating, “Our police officers do not deserve to be chasing chickens and to think that allowing chickens in town and registering chickens means that now they know who the chickens belong to and we can hold them accountable. We’re having problems with dogs…” Davis also referenced the food cycle and all the coyotes that would be coming into town.

Tobin addressed the council in favor of chickens expressing the health benefits of free range chicken eggs. Tobin stated, “I should not be denied my choices of being self sufficient and eating healthy. All the other communities around us allow chickens in their community. It is time for Connell to give up control and let citizens make choices for themselves.” Tobin went on to state how chickens would provide opportunities for kids to participate in 4-H projects. She also shared comments she received from other communities who allow chickens and the benefits seemed to far outweigh the risks.

In council comment John White expressed that dog exhaust brakes aren’t being enforced. KaTrina Kunkel agreed with White stating, “the number one complaint I hear is that things aren’t being enforced.” Kunkel stated, “We already have all these other issues that aren’t being handled appropriately. It’s hard for me, personally, to say well, let’s add one more thing…”

Pat Barrera would rather see the city’s money spent on youth. She said, “We haven’t even dealt with cats, I’d rather not deal with chickens but with kids.”

Chief Lee stated animals are a low end of their priorities and right now they can’t do anything in regards to enforcing chickens with the way the code is written. This would impose sanctions.

Shelly Harper also spoke about the new chicken allowance and asked about the location of the coop; with such small yards it would place it right in the middle of a backyard. She would rather see it near the back fence.

Kunkel also brought up health department rules and regulations regarding chickens.

White said, “I’m not against chickens, but I’d like to wait to give this more thought.” Joe Escalera seconded the motion. The motion passed three to two with Harper and Kunkel voting no.

Mayor Lee Barrow asked the council if the city was wasting their time on bringing the chicken issue back. Calling for a consensus of the council as the animal code is being held up over the matter. The city will bring two options back for council review at their next meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 20. One including chickens and one excluding chickens but allowing for sanctions if not followed.

Nichole Stickney with AHBL, the city’s planning and land use consultants, spoke to the council on proposed zoning amendments including zero lot lines and the creation of a new zoning district for high density housing. Stickney also mentioned that they are looking into reviewing and revising the standards for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s). A joint public hearing will take place with both the planning commission and council on Monday, Sept. 25.

Davis addressed the council once again during public comment hitting on a number of issues including lack of consistency in rule making, houses without front yards, lack of “small town minded” thought in solving issues, blocking building use, etc. She stated, “Having options is a sense of growth and productivity, not a sense of having less control in town.” Going on she added, “The best way to fix this is to cure the incompetence at the city hall and the best way to do this is with a strong city council… The Mayor is the first line of defense with the council next, working in tandem…”

In her opinion, Davis said, “there is not 100% transparency between the city officials and its citizens.”

Welch also spoke again asking if there were answers to questions from the last council meeting. “Is the Tumbleweed Motel going to be H2A housing for migrants or is it going to be a motel? Because I don’t believe it can be coded for both, which is what they’re trying to do.” She also asked about the inhabitants at the former juvenile basic training camp and how the city had no idea people were living there and who turned on the water there. “I just would like some answers to these two situations.”

Kara Booker gave an emotional statement as she spoke to the council and city staff. “Burl and I have been active members of this community for over 40 years for myself and over 60 years for Burl… Never could we have imagined the scenario of their potentially being a litigation with the community that has supported us and in turn we have supported it, but yet, here we are.

It’s extremely concerning and disappointing to say the least.” She gave three points - first how the city staff states they don’t know much about building and rely on the professionals. Her question, “What professionals? Clearly not the engineers who designed the building. Not the professional engineers with Franklin County that the city contracts with that approved all the plans and signed off on the building throughout the process and approved the building.” Secondly, how safety can be used as a reason to not allow use of a building that was recently built to standards approved by the county. Finally, how the city administrator called them in for a meeting and then accused Burl of lying. Booker said, “Burl wouldn’t lie about this or anything else.” Booker did ask that the council share their opinion of them and what they do in and for the community stating that she honestly doesn’t care what the city administrator thinks, “We’re just a blip on the radar of her career. She’ll come and go but we will all still be here, everyone who’s local to this community. What I do care about is what the people who actually do know us think. If the work we have been doing out in our community is giving the perception of dishonesty and lack of integrity we are honestly doing something wrong…we need to correct it or stop doing it.”

Jeanette Carmona addressed the council about the H2A living issue stating she understands they aren’t processing it right but, “On the other hand the H2A workers are here, is it that they are a danger? We never know who’s in our community. We live next door to a prison, how much more danger can there be?” Carmona spoke to other eye sores in town. She expressed how we need more input about H2A workers and knowledge about that, they come and work in a lot of places most people won’t and how hard they work. “Just because they’re H2A workers, they’re normal people just like we are. I think it’s a good thing as long as they do it the legal way.”

The council went into executive session regarding litigation and then heard council comment. Kunkel said, “It was so great to have a packed house. Thank you.”

The next council meeting will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 6pm at Connell City Hall.

The public is welcome to attend.

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