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N. London chickens out

New London Mayor Bill Gossman on Wednesday lost his bid for a permit to have several egg-laying chickens at his home. This photo was taken at a local farm. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

NEW LONDON -- New London Mayor Bill Gossman will not be allowed to keep five laying hens in a backyard chicken coop.

His request was denied Wednesday on a 2-2 vote by the City Council.

Since the mayor, who would typically break a tie vote, was the one requesting the permit and stepped away from the council table during the hearing, the motion to grant the permit died.

"I tried," Gossman later said.

Laying hens have become popular in urban areas, including Minneapolis. Gossman said he made the request for the permit, in part, to make a point that if chickens can be kept in large cities without problems then a town the size of New London, with a population of around 1,000 residents, should be able to handle it.

Gossman thought other residents in town might also be interested in raising a few chickens for eggs if he was able to get a permit approved. No one else attended the public hearing to speak for or against the chicken permit.

Councilmen John Bergman and Corky Beck both voted against Gossman's request.

"I just don't think we should have chickens in town. It's simple as that," Bergman said.

If someone is allowed to have chickens, then other residents might want to raise pigs or sheep in town, Beck said.

Gossman had proposed building a portable chicken coop enclosed with a wire fence. The 20-square-foot "tractor chicken coop," which would have a nesting and sleeping area on top and a grassy space below for chickens to walk and scratch in, would be moved every day to a new section of the lawn on his acre lot.

He said he talked to all but one neighbor and no one objected. He said he wouldn't have a rooster and promised to get rid of the chickens if they caused problems for his neighbors, who he intended to give any extra eggs to.

Council members peppered Gossman with questions about how close the coop would be to neighbors, how droppings would be handled and if the chickens would be vaccinated. They expressed concern for setting conditions for Gossman that could be applied fairly to future applications for chickens and toyed with tacking on a $25 permit fee.

They reviewed an ordinance used by the city of Duluth that spelled out 13 specific requirements and conditions for someone wanting to raise a maximum of five chickens in town. During a lengthy discussion additional conditions were attached to the motion for Gossman's permit.

Councilmen Kevin Dittbenner and John Mack, who had initially opposed efforts to allow chickens to be raised in town, voted for the permit after certain conditions were added.

A proponent of eating locally produced food, Gossman said he was disappointed with the outcome of the vote, but said there was one upside. "Now I don't to build a chicken coop."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750