According to Lakewood City Ordinance 505.18, it’s illegal for people to own or raise sharks, hippopotami, cheetahs, elephants, old world monkeys, constrictor snakes longer than 14 feet … and chickens.
Thursday night, a group called Hens in Lakewood got another step closer to changing that ordinance.
Well, at least the chicken part.
The Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board voted Thursday at to conditionally support their request for a mayoral exemption to the law, letting three pilot families raise no more than six hens in their backyard for 12 months.
In its proposal to Mayor Michael Summers, the group must address some long-term issues, like changing the language of the ordinance and dealing with permit applications once it’s changed.
“We’re happy and honored to get the board’s support,” said Hens in Lakewood member April Stoltz.
The group has been collaborating with several board members since they first pitched the idea at , Stoltz said, and have even taken members to tour backyard coops on the Detroit Shoreway.
“I used to be dead-set against it,” said board member Karolyn Isenhart, who is a self-proclaimed bird hater. “But after seeing those other chicken coops — which are really cute, by the way — I have to say, it works. And it could work for Lakewood.”
In the proposal, three families would be allowed to raise no more than six hens (no roosters) total, in a coop with at least 1 square foot per bird. The coops are roughly the size of a small toolshed, with an enclosed “run” so the birds can stretch their wings.
After the year-long trial period, Stoltz said the group hopes to then convince Lakewood City Council to rewrite the ordinance and allow residents to keep hens as pets.
The change, she argues, is part of a national trend. In a Virginia community, people can buy backyard coops with their new homes. Neighborhoods in Austin, TX offer “coop tours.” And cities like Chicago, New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, OR all have ordinances allowing residents to keep hens.
Cleveland City Council voted to end its poultry prohibition in February 2009.
“We always talk about the young, creative class in Lakewood,” she said. “This is exactly the kind of lifestyle that can attract them into the city.”
Cherise Sims is a member of Hens in Lakewood, and one of the pilot families.
“I’m actually the first generation in my family not to raise chickens,” she said.
Sims moved to Lakewood after running an errand for a friend. She bought and completely renovated a foreclosed property on Hazelwood Avenue. She said there’s no evidence chicken coops bring down property values.
“I’ve found four or five cities with nearly identical population density (that allow hens), and it works there,” she said.
The group has until Oct. 1 to submit a proposal to Mayor Michael Summers, and will be working with Ward 2 City Councilman Thomas Bullock. Ward 1 Councilman David Anderson also has voiced his support.
“If the proposal is amended and addresses some of the (long-term) issues, I would be willing to go to bat for that,” Anderson said.
But Stoltz isn’t getting too excited yet. There’s still a long way to go until Lakewood ends its backyard bird ban.
“It’s one step at a time, brother,” Stoltz said.