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Chicken odor complaints to lead to code changes

Mike McKibbin
Citizen Telegram Editor

RIFLE – Chickens can be a bit smelly, and for at least a few Rifle residents, the ones their neighbors have are enough of a problem to lead them to complain to city officials.

The odor complaints stem from chicken waste left in the yard, city Planning Director Nathan Lindquist told City Council Wednesday night.

The city currently permits a homeowner to have up to ten chickens in a backyard coop. A six-foot fence and proper cleaning of the coop to prevent odors from spreading to neighboring properties are required.

The police code enforcement officer visits properties when complaints are received and can issue citations based on odor problems. However, Lindquist noted only warnings had been issued to date.

“They’ve usually been pretty effective,” he added.

Police Chief John Dyer said the complaints have come from three or four locations in the city.

“It gets to be a very emotional situation, because you have the neighbor complaining and the chicken owner who wants to keep his chickens,” he added.

Lindquist suggested the council consider additional regulations on chickens to reduce odor impacts, such as lot size restrictions of at least 6,000 square feet to have chickens and requiring coops to be at least 15 feet from neighboring residential properties.

Councilman Dirk Myers said complaints were more likely when the chickens are raised on a very small lots, with the chickens very close to neighboring homes.

“So places like the downtown would be much less desirable than the more open spaces further away,” he said. “I think a 5,000 square foot lot size is fair.”

Councilwoman Barbara Clifton worried about an “enforcement nightmare” if the city went too far with its regulations and requirements. “If you do this, why not apply it to dogs, too?” she asked. “I’ve seen some yards where that’s really bad. It’s not the number of animals you allow or the size of the lot. It’s the responsibility of the animal owner to care for those animals.”

Proposed changes to the city code regarding chickens to address the odor issue will be presented to the council at its Dec. 4 meeting.

City Council was also updated on the partial failure of the water treatment plant on Tuesday.

Wednesday morning, the city issued an update that said the Graham Mesa plant was back on line, producing water at normal seasonal rates, so conservation measures had been lifted.

City Manager Matt Sturgeon explained the plant’s sedimentation basin that removes silt and other solid particles from Colorado River water had a 10 percent failure.

After the meeting, Utilities Director Dick Deussen said the basin has hollow triangular tubes that the water flows through and a number of them failed, reducing the amount of water that could be treated.

“We’ll have to replace all of them, but we had to empty the basin to get the tubes out,” he added.

Sturgeon said had the failure occurred in the summer, when irrigation water demand is high, “we would have been in a world of hurt. We would have had to ban all irrigation.”

Sturgeon said permanent repairs are expected to take 6 to 8 weeks.

Deussen added that bids on the new $25 million water plant will not be sought until next year due to design changes in the plant. It is the latest delay in a project that was originally planned to begin construction this summer.

In other action, City Council:

• Directed city staff to present a plan to cut its water and wastewater system improvement, or tap, fees by as much as 75 percent for two years to try to stimulate new commercial and residential construction.

Currently, the city requires a water system improvement fee of $5,743.27 per EQR, a residential equivalency unit based on a single-family residence with up to 4-bedrooms and 5,000 sq. ft. of landscaping. It assumes 350 gallons-per-day of water consumption. The city also requires a wastewater system improvement fee of $6,382.37 per EQR. New commercial starts can pay system improvement fees over three years.

• Gave initial approval to a 5 percent increase in city trash rates for 2014, the first such increase in four years. This increase would occur annually to keep up with inflation, and would result in a residential customer paying approximately .90 a month more next year. A customer using a large can would see monthly rates go from $13.40 to $14.30. That would still be below the city’s rate for the same large, residential can in 2010 of $17.24 a month. The extra revenue will be used to continue funding the annual spring clean-up. The city will soon start negotiations of a new sanitation service contract with MRI in 2017, when further increases are expected.


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