by Jessica Pedersen
Bath-DeWitt Connection staff writer
The Bath Township Board of Trustees are questioning the planning commission’s proposed changes to the township chicken ordinance.
The Planning Commission has proposed that residents living outside of areas designated as rural be able to apply and pay for a permit that would allow them to raise and keep chickens on their property, which is currently forbidden.
Township Superintendent Troy Feltman said that the proposal stemmed from a number of resident inquiries about keeping chickens on residential property.
Although Treasurer Jeff Garrity agrees that residents should be able to raise chickens on properties outside of rural districts, he disagrees that there should be a formal permit process.
“I don’t think it should be necessary for residents that want to own chickens to pay a fee, or apply for anything,” Garrity said.
Garrity said that he viewed owning chickens as a way to grow your own food. To him, it is much like a human right, he said.
“Since humans existed, they have been growing their own food,” he said. “It may be an unpopular opinion, but I see raising chickens basically as the same thing as growing lettuce, tomatoes or onions.”
Garrity said the township doesn’t make residents pay a fee to grow vegetables, so he sees no reason to make residents pay to have chickens on their property.
Since residents owning chickens won’t cost the township any money, Garrity said he doesn’t understand why residents should be charged.
“There’s absolutely no reason we should be charging residents for something that doesn’t cost us any money,” he said.
Trustee Rick Curtis agreed with Garrity.
“This just doesn’t seem to be an issue where permits and fees may be necessary,” he said.
Although Curtis said he doesn’t see a need for permits, he did have a few concerns about the actual process of chicken owning.
“There’s a terrible odor that can come from the coops,” he said. “Neighbors, especially close neighbors, won’t like it.”
Curtis suggested residents try and keep their chicken coops as centrally located on their property as possible as a solution to this problem.
Garrity said getting neighbor approval before installing a chicken coop may be a good idea and a way to eliminate problems, but Curtis said there was a lot of “grey area” with that suggestion.
“The attorney’s won’t like the idea of getting neighbor permission,” Curtis said. “It goes into too many problems. What if you get new neighbors and they don’t want the coop there any more?”
Curtis compared this situation to a grandfather clause: the resident’s coop would be grandfathered in, regardless of what the new neighbors would want.
Garrity said that regardless of the technicalities, he does not want to see require residents to buy permits to keep chickens on their property.
“Growing your own food should be a right, not a government controlled endeavor,” he said.