Two Olathe families this week won the right to continue keeping chickens in their back yards, but the discussion has started the City Council thinking about banning the birds from small backyards citywide.
The issue came up when the first couple, Lisa and Luke Demaree, asked the council to renew their special use permit to keep the two chickens they’ve had for the past year. They keep the chickens as pets, collect their eggs and use their waste as fertilizer.
But they need a special use permit to keep the chickens on a residential lot smaller than three acres.
That permit was threatened because the city had received complaints over the past year that the Demarees had more chickens than allowed and the coop was too close to the property line. But city staff found everything in compliance when they visited the property. There was also a complaint about noise.
Because of the filed complaints, the Planning Commission had recommended that the council deny the special use permit.
But the council voted 6-1 on Tuesday night to allow the couple to keep the chickens, mainly because several council members didn’t think the complaints, especially the one about noise, held much substance.
“I challenge anyone who says a chicken is louder than a dog,” said Councilman Larry Campbell. “If we don’t allow chickens because of noise, we shouldn’t allow dogs. It’s not fair.”
Several council members concurred.
Jim Randall was the only council member to vote against renewing the special use permit.
“I think our city needs to be at the point where non-domestic animals in backyards should not be allowed,” he explained. “That’s my own personal feeling.”
Despite allowing the family to keep its chickens, several council members said they agreed.
Campbell said he would like the council to create an ordinance banning undomesticated animals from back yards.
“I am all for us reviewing our books, because I think it’s time we don’t allow it,” he said.
After the discussion, the council voted to approve another special use permit allowing John and Jennifer Sanjean to keep six chickens.
Although Lisa Demaree was thrilled her family can keep the chickens they’ve grown to love, she is upset that the city might try to stop residents from raising the birds.
If the city takes a step in that direction, she said she will fight it.
“I would start a grassroots movement because we’re certainly not the only family in Olathe with chickens,” Demaree said after the council meeting. “I have three neighbors right around me who raise chickens, too. The organic movement is growing everywhere. People are starting to come around.”