The City of Fountain has opted to make no changes to its current ordinances to allow for the keeping of chickens within city limits. The matter was brought to the council’s attention months ago by 526 First Street resident Emily Root and her family. Root spoke before the council at the May meeting, bringing forth her request to construct a greenhouse with an attached coop for the keeping of laying hens on her property.
At the May 2 meeting, Root provided a detailed listing of plans for her proposed coop. It was noted as a roughly 10-feet by 15-feet structure, complete with sealed supply area, a concrete floor, and double fencing surrounding the exterior run as preventative measures for anything getting in or out. Root, who works for Public Health, noted she had previous experience with chickens. She suggested the ordinance be amended for chickens only, and offered to undergo licensing, a probationary period, a three-strikes or penalty policy, or compliance with any other city rules related to the ordinance. In addition, she offered to assist the city, as a volunteer, to ensure any other properties keeping chickens under the same ordinance were in compliance.
Root was present, along with neighbor Tiffany Miller, 530 First Street, at the Wednesday, June 6 meeting to offer any further discussion on the topic. After acknowledging their presence at the meeting, Mayor Richard Kujath stated the city would not be modifying the ordinance to allow for the keeping of any farm animals within city limits. “I know you people were looking forward to chickens, but I see no need for any further discussion on it,” stated Kujath.
Root and Miller left the meeting following Kujath’s statement, but returned later in the meeting requesting permission to speak to the council.
“We wanted our chance to state what our thoughts were on the chicken situation,” began Root. “We discussed it last month and I asked if there were any specific objections and there were none. Now, you just shut it down. I’m willing to go above and beyond what’s needed to demonstrate that I’m serious about this for my family and the community.”
Root noted disappointment in the inability to address any complaints brought to council members about the request. Councilor Jim Schott indicated that some neighbors suggested they hadn’t been talked to. Root noted at the May 2 meeting that she’d spoken with the neighbors directly south, to the immediate west, adjacent to a vacant lot immediately to the east, and the property north, across the street from her property. She claims none of the residents she spoke with cited any concerns.
Root also addressed her coop design, noting she was told her locked-down design could be what anyone else seeking to keep chickens would have to follow in order to mitigate any problems. Schott cited zoning in what he called “their words,” saying, “Allowing the change is a can of worms you can’t put shut again.”
Schott continued, saying, “If, and I don’t want to do that…”
“Better leave it the way it is,” interjected Kujath.
“It’s a snowball effect,” continued Schott. “I’m telling you right now, it’s going to happen. I wish there was an ordinance you could have just for chickens. We’re trying to avoid going through that again. I wish it was a different answer for you.”
The council continued suggesting the change could spell the need for enforcement, inspectors, and an inability to “get out of it.” Schott verbally considered the possible usage of a Conditional Use Permit. Root recommended a non-renewable seasonal permit, fines, and a volunteer for community enforcement.
“As it stands right now, we’re going to leave our ordinance as it is. We see no reason in changing it,” said Kujath. “That’s all that we can tell you for now. I don’t see any need discussing this anymore.”
“That’s unfortunate. It really is too bad,” responded Root. “My kids are devastated about this. I was led to believe this would go through after last month’s meeting. I respectfully disagree with the way this went down today.”
In agenda business, the council heard from Historic Bluff Country Executive Director Brian Krentz regarding plans to extend the current Scenic Byway designation. Extension plans call for the byway to extend from Preston, north up Highway 52 through Fountain, west to Wykoff along Highway 80, then south, and finally looping east again along Highway 16 back to Preston.
The federal Scenic Byway designation was provided through the American Byways program, which is no longer active. According to Krenz, no new federal designations are being done, so this new designation would be by the state. “We will be promoting this route as primary route to take,” stated Krenz. New mapping is underway, including the extension. “With you having the Fillmore County Museum here, there’s no reason for them to say no.”
“This was the way you travelled here,” noted Mayor Richard Kujath, citing the proposed route. The council approved a resolution to be included as part of the historic byway, as well as an annual membership in Historic Bluff Country. The membership fee is based upon the most recent city population, as documented in the census. The rate will remain the same annually until the next census. The amount is estimated to be $413.
WSB & Associates Project Engineer Matthew Mohs was also present at the meeting to discuss a proposal related to a chemical bulk tank being brought into the wastewater treatment plant. Mohs called for structural engineering for the project and creation of a plan sheet for potential contractors, regarding location, requirements of footprint, and other specifications. The tank is an estimated 1,000 gallon unit, but it is still to be determined whether it’s a vertical or horizontal tank, which will have a bearing on designs for the footing area.
The council approved moving forward with creation of the plan, but with the caveat of WSB speaking with Public Works for verification of expectations and parameters first. Mohs will also be looking over a proposed agreement with Valley Design Enterprises, running the details past the head of WSB’s wastewater group for any potential red flags. “We would like to have cordial agreement,” said Mohs. “We all know the rules of the game, so let’s play by the rules.”
The city has received four complaints from the police department, as well as two directly at city hall, related to the revving and squealing of motorcycle tires in the wee hours of the morning in the downtown area. According to Clerk Rhonda Flattum, both businesses and residents are complaining. The city will work with the Preston Police Department, whom it contracts with for police protection, to monitor the situation and issue citations as needed.
Corey Hamann, co-owner of Seed First, LLC, which is constructing a new facility on Main Street, spoke to the council about the company’s desire to put solar panels on the south-facing roof of the facility at some point. He indicated that once the company has evaluated the electrical usage after one year, for solar system sizing, it will be returning to the council regarding the matter. Hamann stated the largest size for one service is 44 kilowatt and that there are currently rebates through Minnesota Energy and both the state and federal governments.
At this time, Hamann was unsure of whether or not the panels would need to have a slight incline in mounting, based on the roofline and testing to determine optimal angles. He did stress that it won’t be a ground-based solar array and that it wouldn’t cast light reflection in the line of sight for other properties. “This time next year, we’ll be going through the process. The building will be wired with a plan to install solar, but there’s no hardware until that time,” he clarified.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be held Wednesday, July 11, at 7:30 p.m., at city hall. The date was pushed back one week due to the Independence Day holiday. The public is encouraged to attend.