ASHLAND — In a rare use of mayoral power Friday evening, Mayor John Stromberg vetoed the Ashland City Council's decision to adopt regulations that would make it harder to raise backyard chickens in town.

ASHLAND — In a rare use of mayoral power Friday evening, Mayor John Stromberg vetoed the Ashland City Council's decision to adopt regulations that would make it harder to raise backyard chickens in town.

It will now be up to the council to either override Stromberg's veto or accept the veto and reconsider the issue.

The council voted April 17 to add new regulations for people who raise chickens, while keeping in place a city ordinance that says chickens must be kept at least 75 feet away from neighboring houses. The 75-foot buffer rule bars most Ashlanders from legally keeping chickens because many lot sizes are too small.

The new regulations were originally meant to be paired with a new 20-foot buffer rule and were designed to reduce some of the potential impacts from having chickens closer to neighbors.

However, as time was running out at the meeting, Councilman Greg Lemhouse made a motion to keep the 75-foot buffer in place. Council members were split in a 3-3 vote on the buffer, with Stromberg casting the tie-breaking vote to maintain the 75-foot buffer rule.

In a Friday-evening email to City Council members and city staff explaining his veto decision, Stromberg said he thinks the council can come up with a middle-ground buffer rule between 20 and 75 feet.

"I voted in favor of Councilor Lemhouse's amendment reinstituting the 75-foot requirement because I concluded the proposed 20-foot requirement was insufficient," Stromberg said in the email. "I believe upon re-examination we can institute a more workable buffer without unreasonably discouraging the raising of a moderate number of chickens in residential areas."

In response to news of Stromberg's veto, Lemhouse said Friday that he shares Stromberg's concern that the 20-foot buffer may be too small and the 75-foot buffer may be too large. Lemhouse said he is interested in negotiating a different buffer distance, while still taking into consideration safety issues and the rights of neighbors.

"If it comes back to the council, I'm willing to reconsider. I support the concept of urban farming. We need to find a balance. I'm really trying to find a balance," Lemhouse said. "I'm willing to keep working on it."

Stromberg said in his email that there may have been insufficient time to discuss the issue at the Tuesday council meeting.

Council members had a packed agenda that night and made decisions on a number of important topics, but the complex chicken issue was nearly the last item on the agenda. Council members were dealing with new testimony from residents that chicken droppings can contain fungal spores that can cause a dangerous lung disease, and chicken feed can attract rats.

In addition, an Ashland chicken coop burned Monday, with the fire likely started by a heating lamp used to keep chicks warm.

The council's April 17 decision angered local chicken enthusiasts, who said the new regulations will create a regulatory nightmare.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.