Politics & Government

Chickens rejected in Warner Robins, but advocates to keep clucking

WARNER ROBINS -- Chickens aren’t coming home to roost any time soon in Warner Robins.

A divided City Council rejected the measure Tuesday night, but Mayor Randy Toms said he expects the issue of backyard chickens will return late this year.

“I think it’ll come up again in six months, and we need to be fair (with) how we take a look,” Toms told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

Measures rejected by City Council can’t be brought up for a vote again for at least six months.

Toms said he had concerns about backyard chicken proposals that were so restrictive they’d be nearly useless. One idea of restricting chickens to 2-acre lots was “so restrictive as to essentially say no,” Toms said.

The council also voted on a measure Tuesday that would have required chickens to be kept at least 100 feet from neighbors’ houses. Toms said he remains “solidly undecided,” but acknowledged that if he would have had to cast a tie-breaking vote on the 100-foot minimum, he’d say no because it was too restrictive.

Elijah Lewis, founder of Warner Robins CLUCK, or Citizens Lobbying for Urban Chicken Keeping, said he expected his group would continue working on the issue. CLUCK will attend public functions and council meetings, and the organization expects to hold an educational forum on urban chicken keeping.

Such backyard poultry is allowed in places that are generally more dense than Warner Robins, including Atlanta and New York City. Council members have expressed their own concerns or repeated concerns of constituents about noise, smell, lower property values and animal control. Lewis has said chickens cause fewer noise and smell problems than dogs, which are not as tightly regulated as the draft chicken ordinance had proposed.

Some City Council seats are up for election this year, and Lewis said he expected chickens would be among the topics of debate leading up to the elections.

“There are a lot of issues that are important, and I think that every issue deserves to be considered, and this is an issue,” Lewis said.

Lewis and Toms said Councilman Keith Lauritsen voted for the urban chicken keeping proposal. Council members Tim Thomas, Mike Davis and Carolyn Robbins voted against it, and Councilman Chuck Shaheen abstained. Councilman Clifford Holmes was absent.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.