Watch a replay of the chicken discussion during the October 30 study session on the Excelsior Citizen YouTube Channel. From left to right in the video frame Consultant Doug Hermes, Sandy Barnes, Dustin Borchert, Jake Simmons, Bob Gerdes, and Jason VanTill.
Although it’s not a done deal, the question of whether Excelsior Springs residents should be permitted to raise backyard chickens has reached a critical juncture following a Planning and Zoning Commission study session. Despite considerable community support for the initiative, the Commission has recommended the city retain its current ordinances, which prohibit the practice at single-family homes within city limits.
This development transpired after Community Development Consultant Doug Hermes put forth a plan during the study session that recommended allowing up to six hens in backyard settings, drawing considerable opposition from Commission members. The Commission Chair, Jake Simmons, voiced particular concerns, arguing that introducing “farm animals” to urban spaces might disrupt community norms and adversely impact property values. “This is as backwards as all get out!” Simmons exclaimed during the session.
Simmons highlighted that not every surrounding community has adopted such ordinances, pointing out Kearney’s absence on the list and its notable median home sale prices, “I’m not going to continue to compare ourselves to Kearney, but at the same time, they seem to be doing something right with all the expansion development, and their average median home sales price at a half million and above now.” he stated.
A listening post on August 27th demonstrated the community’s desire to keep chickens, with over 30 attendees advocating for the change. The session included respected local figures such as retired veterinarian Pete Rucker and Animal Control Officer Melissa Davis, who discussed the pros and cons of backyard poultry. The Excelsior Citizen Facebook group has also seen spirited discussions, predominantly in favor of allowing backyard poultry, with dozens or even hundreds of participants weighing in on the topic.
However, at the October 30th study session, this community sentiment appeared at odds with the views of the Commission members. Hermes faced stiff opposition when presenting the staff proposal. Of the five commissioners in attendance, four were against altering existing regulations, leaving Commissioner Bob Gerdes as the lone advocate and the only one who had attended or reviewed the August listening post.
The proposed ordinance considered public input from the listening post as well as regulations and ordinances from neighboring communities, outlining a new set of standards for maintaining poultry in residential areas. Regardless, issues were raised about regulatory enforcement and potential impacts on the city’s ambiance.
Commissioner Simmons questioned the suitability of integrating chickens into suburban settings, while Commissioner Gerdes maintained that the proposal, which would permit only a small number of chickens in restricted areas, was harmless.
“I personally think it’s there’s nothing harmful,” said Gerdes. ”We’re talking about six chickens in a really restricted area… It’s very small.” VanTill and Borchert said they could see both sides of the issue, but their preference was against the idea. Barnes said, “I’m not for it. I believe we ought to stick with what our current standards are because right now, we have folks in town who are keeping chickens, and nobody’s doing anything to police them; they’re outside of the code currently, so if we did something like this, who knows what kind of a mess we’d have.”
With the decision ultimately in the hands of the City Council, the community anticipates further discussions. The opportunity for public input will continue at the next Planning and Zoning meeting scheduled for November 27, 2023, to be held at the Hall of Waters in the Council Chambers.
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