JACKSONVILLE — Roosters that were in the city prior to May 2 are welcome to stay but new arrivals are banned, after the Jacksonville City Council passed emergency ordinances to address neighbors' concerns over crowing.
Neighbors in the Westmont area of town complained about the fowl’s disruptive noises in April. Other cities in the Rogue Valley don’t allow roosters.
The council also modified the city's noise nuisance ordinance in April to create escalating fines of up to $500 for any violation, including roosters crowing. The fines would address crowing problems created by grandfathered roosters, said Jeff Alvis, city administrator.
Westmont resident and rooster owner Steve Day said the council appears to be selecting what elements of a historic city it wants to eliminate. He also said the current noise ordinance lacks objective criteria for determining violations.
Jacksonville prides itself on a history dating back to the 1850s, and a number of regulations attempt to preserve the town’s historical character. Old photos of the town show yards with farm animals in them, Day said.
Groton, Massachusetts, another town that works to preserve its history, does allow roosters and other farm animals, said Day. Property purchasers sign agreements recognizing that farm noises are part of the city’s life, said Day.
“We are kind of cherry-picking what is and isn’t of historical significance,” said Day. “It’s the only historical town in Southern Oregon. It should be different. ”
In April, however, Westmont neighbors said birds kept by several families start crowing as early as 4:30 a.m. and continue throughout the day.
The council passed two ordinances to amend the municipal code. One prohibits roosters and the other declares crowing a non-permitted noise. The council used the emergency procedures so no one would acquire new roosters during the normal 30-day period before ordinances take effect.
There was no public testimony when the ordinances were heard May 2 and no discussion by council members, who had directed staff to prepare them at a previous session.
At an earlier council meeting, Councilor Cris Garcia said roosters are grandfathered in like the wells in town. While new wells are not allowed, he is allowed to use the one that’s on his property, as it predates restrictions.
“They are grandfathered in. We can’t ban them and make everybody go out and kill (the roosters). The ones that everyone has are still there," said Alvis. Enforcement of either the ban or the noise ordinance would be complaint-driven, he said.
Day said the noise ordinance is vague.
“There are no measurable parameters, like in the Portland area where they do have some environmental values,” said Day. “There are no objective criteria. If it disrupts you, you say, ‘Yes, it does.' It’s very subjective.”
Besides many other noises from domestic animals, there’s a flock of about 100 wild turkeys that’s not quiet, said Day. Lawn mowing in the Westmont area, which features larger lots, can take several hours, producing constant noise. The area is north of Highway 238 in the northwest part of town.
Day said his roosters are locked up in an insulated garage much of the time. He lets them out at 8 a.m. and puts them back in during the evening to prevent their crowing from disturbing neighbors. Other neighbors have roosters, said Day, and there's a landowner on adjacent county land who keeps cows.
— Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at firstname.lastname@example.org.