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City Council considering pilot program to allow chickens
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City Council considering pilot program to allow chickens

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The Rapid City Council will continue the process of creating a program to allow residents to have hens in the city limits.

Council member Darla Drew brought the issue back to the council after several people she described as younger and concerned about food security due to the coronavirus brought it up to her. One of her arguments is that so many people have already started buying chickens that a local retailer was running low on supplies to build housing for them.

"I'm not trying to 'dis' code enforcement, but the chickens are already here," Drew said at Monday night's City Council meeting. "Many people purchased chickens during the pandemic. It's already here. Let's regulate it."

Council member John Roberts said even if the council were to approve hen ownership in city limits, many neighborhood covenants and homeowners associations prohibit them.

Pat Jones and Ritchie Nordstrom both said they had received about 40 comments about the issue and estimated that 65 percent of the people contacting them are in favor. Bill Evans and Roberts said they had more people against the issue contacting them.

The council received 15 online comments on the issue. Eleven were in favor of allowing hens inside the city limits, and four were opposed.

Those in favor said chickens are great pets, teaching children where food comes from is important, and chickens are less worrisome than barking dogs.

Those against worried about whether people would keep the chicken coops clean and that animal control is already overburdened. 

One thing all council members agreed on was that people on both sides are passionate about their positions. 

City Attorney Joel Landeen was asked to bring back to the council an ordinance and information for a pilot program that would allow a small group of people to own chickens legally.

Items the council will discuss in future meetings include how many hens could be owned by a resident, lot size and setback rules for homeownership, requirements for chicken coops, and how code enforcement and animal control will enforce any new ordinances that are passed.

In other action, the council approved another $75,000 for the emergency COVID-19 Homeless Shelter.

The shelter was recently moved out of Rushmore Hall at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to a smaller facility owned by Pennington County at 725 N. LaCrosse.

Rapid City matched Pennington County's investment of $75,000 per month in May and June. Pennington County Emergency Management Director Dustin Willett said in a memo to the council that the first two installments ran out on July 2. He said the costs incurred to maintain the facility are being tracked so they can be submitted for reimbursement through the funding supplied by the CARES Act and made available by Gov. Kristi Noem.

Drew asked if this is the last time the city will be asked for funds for this purpose. Mayor Steve Allender said the new facility is more economical than the previous location, but more funds — which will be reimbursed — might be needed at some point.

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