MARQUETTE – Chocolay Township planning officials are hoping to get public input on a proposal to allow for the ownership of chickens and other animals throughout the township.
The township planning commission in May received a citizen petition requesting chickens be permitted in residential areas. The board has been discussing the concept since and requested earlier this summer that staff draft proposed ordinance amendments for review.
At the planning commission’s Aug. 12 meeting, township planning director Kelly Drake Woodward provided the commission with a draft that included regulations permitting ownership of animals both large and small.
“I think they’ll be relatively supportive of chickens at some level, but they’re just trying to wrap their heads around what they should do about other animals,” Woodward said of the planning commission, which decided further discussion of the topic was merited.
Woodward’s proposed regulations stipulate that animal husbandry would be allowed as an “accessory homesteading activity,” which is defined, in part, as something “meant to support the household in attaining some level of self-sufficiency.”
As a part of the proposed regulations, Woodward came up with a system of “animal equivalents,” which handicapped different types of grazing animals based on relative size and behavioral potential for nuisance.
Fowl and small furred animals like rabbits would register as .1 animal equivalent units, while llamas, cows and horses would equal 1 unit. A handful of other grazing animals would be classified somewhere in between.
“I wanted to relate the number of animals to something reasonable, because a lot of chicken ordinances just randomly say ‘You can have six’ or seven, or whatever. It doesn’t matter how big your property is or what the conditions are or anything,” Woodward said. “I didn’t want to just relate it to the total size of the property, because somebody could have a humongous house and a couple of outbuildings and it’s not related to how much room they would have for healthy conditions for an animal.”
Under the proposal, a property in the township’s agriculture/ forestry district, a largely rural zone where farming is permitted as a principal use, accessory homesteading would be allowed at a rate of 2.5 animal equivalents per acre of pasturing area.
In Chocolay Township’s waterfront district, a total of .75 animal equivalents would be allowed. In the high-density residential district, a zone that is labeled R2 and is made up primarily of the village of Harvey, a total of .7 animal equivalents would be allowed.
In both districts, homeowners would not be permitted to own an animal that individually exceeds .1 animal equivalent – they would only be able to own fowl or small furred animals. Under the regulations, roosters would not be allowed as a part of accessory homesteading activities.
The area where the township will see the greatest diversity is R1, a residential zone that includes the vast majority of township land north of Marquette County Road 480, including sections along Cherry Creek and Silver Creek roads, as well as the neighborhoods along the south side of M-28, east to Kawbawgam Road.
“R1 is everything else that is remotely residential but it includes some big properties and little properties and that’s the problem,” Woodward said. “You’ve got a lot of variety of property character and types.”
The proposed amendment would allow homeowners in the R1 zone to possess 1.75 animal equivalents per acre of pasturing area.
Planning Commissioner Andy Sikkema said residents often inquire about owning chickens in the township. The challenge, he said, is to gain input from the township on a whole.
“Communities are diverse,” he said. “There’s people with all types of views and wants and that’s what we have to gauge. What would the community, in total, like to see?”
Sikkema called Woodward’s proposed regulations “very innovative,” and said they would move the township in the direction society seems to be going.
The planning commission will look to include questions about residential animal husbandry on a survey going out this fall. Planning Commissioner Bruce Ventura said he was looking forward to seeing those survey results.
“There’s always going to be some that are for it, and they’ll come out for a meeting. Some are against it and they’ll come out for a meeting,” he said. “There’s that 90 percent in the middle that don’t say one way or the other.”
He said he would like to see the survey followed by a public hearing on the proposed regulations.
“I think there’s a place for small animals in a residential area, as long as it’s under certain prescriptions and proscriptions,” said Ventura, who endorsed Woodward’s proposal. “It’s the bigger animals that are causing some contention … nobody wants to see a cow on a half-acre residential lot.”
The planning commission has scheduled a special meeting for Aug. 26 to discuss residential animal husbandry and related public outreach.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.