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Phoenix residents debate livestock ordinance

By Buffy Pollock

For the Tidings

PHOENIX — Residents who keep chickens, bees and rabbits in their backyards will have to wait a few more weeks to find out if their critters can stay.

Discussions regarding a possible ordinance change — current ordinances forbid livestock inside city limits — was deferred to the Planning Commission after a brief discussion at Monday's City Council meeting.

Phoenix residents Brook Knudsen and her fiancé, Zeb Herinckx, who have chickens and bees on their property along C Street, asked council members to revisit the ordinance earlier this month after police received complaints about the couple's prohibited animals.

While Knudsen cited fresh eggs, honey and environmental benefits to keeping chickens and bees, B Street resident Joan Smith, who attended the meeting Monday to oppose an ordinance change, voiced concerns about hygiene and safety related to bee swarms and the rodents she said the chickens had drawn to her property.

Smith, a former Planning Commission member, said she would attend the June 22 meeting and appeal the issue to the state level if necessary.

Smith said rats and raccoons in recent months had been drawn to the neighboring chicken coops and that she feared for the safety of neighborhood children who might be allergic to bees.

"The smell is horrible, and I've complained to police," Smith said. "Before Monday, I thought they were being told to get rid of the chickens. Then I find out in the paper that they're going to be looking at changing the ordinance."

Smith, who said the city was known for "not following their own ordinances" said her dog has been bitten by rats from her neighbors' property.

Knudsen said her two chickens keep bugs at bay and that unpleasant smells have not been a problem for other neighbors.

"We're optimistic about the ordinance being changed, but we're also grounded about the situation, meaning we understand it could go both ways," said Knudsen. "At the same time, I'm glad to see they are going to make some restrictions on what is allowed and I'm glad both sides will get to speak their mind. We understand you can't just have 100 chickens.

"We're definitely encouraging anybody from both sides of the issue to be there that night for the planning commission meeting."

Surrounding cities vary on livestock allowances. Chickens, rabbits and bees are permitted, to varying degrees, in Talent, Ashland and Medford.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.