Midway through the Eagan City Council meeting Tuesday night, dedicated organic gardener Barb Harpster and her daughter shared a jubilant high-five.
Harpster, a 21-year Eagan resident, was celebrating the council's passage of an ordinance amendment allowing Eagan residents to raise backyard chickens in residential areas. Eagan City Councilors Gary Hansen, Paul Bakken and Meg Tilley voted in favor of the amendment. Mayor Mike Maguire and Councilor Cyndee Fields were absent.
"It will be great for my organic gardening practices," Harpster said following the meeting. "Not only for the eggs, but just the pest control and the education value for kids. I think it's just wonderful."
The council has mulled over the ordinance change since early June, when a group of citizen advocates spoke at a regular council listening session in favor of backyard chickens.
Proponents for the backyard chicken ordinance argued that chickens are a “low-impact pet” that can produce eggs for consumption and serve as organic insect and weed control.
After reviewing ordinances in place in surrounding communities, Eagan city staff presented a draft of the proposed amendment in September for council review.
The ordinance change passed on Tuesday allows Eagan residents living on property zoned for single-family residential use to raise as many as five chickens in a coop and adjacent chicken run—as long as they to apply for and receive a permit from the city. The fee for a resident applying for a backyard chicken permit is $50.
The chicken run must be fully enclosed, and both the coop and run must be located in the rear yard of a residence, according to the ordinance. Backyard chicken permit holders will have to reapply annually for the permit, and submit to a city inspection before issuance or renewal of the permit.
While several residents wrote in to Eagan city officials supporting the ordinance change, at least one resident, Richard Goetz, voiced opposition to the measure. In feedback given to Eagan officials, Goetz worried about roosters crowing in the morning.
The Eagan council addressed noise concerns in the ordinance by prohibiting roosters. Under the ordinance, residents cannot slaughter chickens on residential property in the city, nor can they sell the chicken eggs.
"We have proper controls in place for the amendment," Eagan City Councilor Gary Hansen said. “It will be educational for kids and the family, and it will be environmentally sound, I think, and for that reason I’ll support the amendment."