Princeton Plan Commission makes no recommendation to city council regarding chicken issue

Plan commission asks city council to write ordinance defining pet in the city limits

PRINCETON — The decision of whether or not Princeton residents will be allowed to keep chickens in residential areas will be made by the city council without a recommendation from the Princeton Plan Commission.

During Tuesday’s Princeton Plan Commission meeting, instead of making a recommendation to the council on whether or not to allow chickens in residential-zoned areas of the city, the members instead voted 5-1 that the city council write an ordinance that defines what a pet is and whether a chicken falls under the category of “pet” allowed in the city.

If the city council follows through on this plan and decides chickens are a pet that can be allowed in the city, then the Princeton Plan Commission has agreed to step in and make recommendations on how many chickens are allowed per household and how they must be kept on a property.

Jackie Davis, a member of the plan commission, made Tuesday’s motion, which was seconded by member Rodney Lange. Jim Scruggs, the plan commission’s chairman, was the lone ‘no’ vote.

Davis said she felt the decision to allow or not allow chickens should be up to the city council. She added that members of the Princeton Plan Commission are not elected to make decisions for ordinances and to be asked to didn’t seem fair.

City Clerk Pete Nelson, who is also head of the planning and zoning department, passed out a packet at Tuesday’s meeting listing some examples of ordinances nearby municipalities use to allow or not allow chickens.

In Galena, for example, chickens are allowed. They are among a list of animals excluded from prohibition in the city. The ordinance specifically states line-by-line which animals are allowed and includes exceptions. For example: rabbits are allowed, but no more than three in a residential-zoned district; Domestic dogs and cats are allowed, except those hybridized with wild canines and felines; turtles are allowed, except species protected by state or federal law.

Davis said that if the city council decides chickens are allowed, an enforcement officer is going to be needed to ensure people are following the ordinance. It was mentioned that while Princeton does have an animal control officer on staff, the officer works part time.

Matt Keutzer, a member of the Princeton Plan Commission, said that while codes are written, enforcement of the codes is not always followed through on.

City Council Member Jerry Neumann attended Tuesday's meeting as an audience member. Following the meeting he said he was disappointed by the Princeton Plan Commission’s vote.

“I was hoping the planning and zoning commission would have provided some guidance to the city council. That did not happen tonight,” he said.

The city council’s next scheduled meeting is Monday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m., in city hall.