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(Unofficial) petition circulating seeks to renew failed 2015 effort allow chicken ownership in Mitchell

A similar proposal was rejected 5-2 by Mitchell's city council back in 2015 after councilors faced 'widespread public opposition.'

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Lohmann Brown chickens stand outside a barn on Aug. 4, 2015, in Sheffield, Illinois.
Daniel Acker / Bloomberg
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MITCHELL — A new petition began circulating last week, called for the legalization of owning backyard chickens in Mitchell.

The petition, started by Sierra Flores, argues that allowing in-town homeowners the opportunity to have chickens opens up more doors to keep consumers buying locally from small businesses, which, in turn, would be relieving some of the financial burden that the COVID-19 pandemic left in its wake.

“I think it will be a good, fun hobby for many people around here and help put money into the farming stores we have," Flores said in an Aug. 12 Facebook post.

The petition comes roughly seven years after the Mitchell City Council turned down a similar request by Peggy Miiller, who argued that larger cities like Portland, Oregon, have been able to integrate backyard chickens into the city lifestyle.

Flores made the same point, noting that another South Dakota city just a short drive from Mitchell has had successful results when it comes to allowing the fowl within city limits.

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“Over in Sioux Falls, people are able to have a maximum of six chickens,” Flores said. “Sioux Falls is obviously still thriving and continuing to grow.”

"The idea came from me joining another Facebook group and it was for the people who wanted chickens in Mitchell," Flores said. "A lot of people wanted chickens and now they feel so discouraged. I just finally said, if you want something to happen, you have to keep trying."

Council members cited their rejection to the idea back in 2015 due to 'widespread public opposition' as neighbors in the area phoned into their offices to express concerns about the smell, quantity of waste and noise factors that comes with owning chickens.

The decision was not unanimous, however. The proposal was failed on a 5-2 vote, with councilors Dan Allen, Randy Doescher, Dave Tronnes, Jeff Smith and Susan Tjarks voting against the action. Councilors Steve Rice and Marty Barington voted to continue the conversation regarding an ordinance.

Legal backyard chickens in the city of Mitchell won't happen anytime soon. Citing widespread public opposition, the Mitchell City Council voted 5-2 to kill a motion that would have directed the city planning commission to draft an ordinance for p...

At the time, Rice said, “I don’t see the big deal with it.”

Flores asked that today's council at least give consideration to the idea, acknowledging that some rules are still to be expected if the proposal is approved — such as not allowing roosters or imposing a maximum amount on the chickens allowed per home.

Current city regulations prohibit fowl to run at large and require their structures to maintain at least 100 feet from any occupied building or within residential zones.

In the seven years that have passed, it is unclear how the Mitchell City Council would respond to a new proposal on the same topic.

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Flores emailed all council members with her petition attached. Only two responded — Marty Barington and Susan Tjarks.

Tjarks told Flores that her Change.org petition was not "official enough" as it did not reflect signers' addresses, which is used to confirm that they were from Mitchell. According to Flores, Tjarks suggested she should try a paper petition instead that citizens can physically sign.

Flores still argues that her online petition indicates people's intentions and wants for the city, saying she won't give up on the idea.

When asked for comment on the council's opinions on the new petition, only council member John Doescher confirmed to the Mitchell Republic that he'd received word of the petition.

"I did receive an email from a gal wanting chickens allowed within the city limits. Included was a list of folks in favor — a good percentage of signers did not live here, which raised some questions with me," Doescher said. "I am also curious what the reason for banning them originally. That’s all I know."

Those interested in learning more about the petition can visit the original posting on change.org.

Cassie Williams joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2022. To get in contact with Cassie about potential stories, feel free to email her at cwilliams@mitchellrepublic.com.
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