Procedures put into place by town last month set in motion after complaint filed over chicken coops
Town of Saukville officials won’t have to wait long to find out how good of a job they did in crafting the town’s new animal permitting ordinance.
The ordinance, which was adopted by the Town Board last month, was designed to eliminate the need for conditional-use permits for residents who want to raise horses or other animals on their residentially zoned property.
Written into the ordinance are provisions that allow the town to intervene when there are animal-related complaints.
At last week’s Plan Commission meeting, Arrowhead Lane resident Gary Laubenstein filed the town’s first animal complaint petition.
Laubenstein told the commission his neighbors, Bryan and Erin Stewart, are causing a nuisance with the poultry they raise on their five-acre property.
He said chicken coops maintained by the Stewarts are too close to the lot line, and that noise from their geese and roosters are a constant problem.
“For years I’ve been having problems with their birds,” Laubenstein wrote in his petition.
Laubenstein’s appearance before the commission was unscheduled, and the Stewarts did not attend the meeting. However, they were present during several previous sessions when town officials were debating the animal ordinance.
Although they do raise poultry for breeding and meat, many of the birds they have kept on their property were being raised by 4-H members.
In a written response to a 2015 notice from the town about raising poultry without a conditional-use permit, Erin Stewart said the birds have an educational value for participants in the 4-H poultry project.
“These are kids who live in the city limits and are not blessed with the joy of living in the country,” Stewart wrote.
“I will not deny a child the opportunity to experience raising their own bird simply due to a geographical obstacle. This is no different than the other projects where city kids raise cows, pigs or turkeys at someone else’s farm.”
She said raising poultry is “the one hobby that brings me joy.”
Following an animal unit table included in the new ordinance, the owner of a five-acre property would be entitled to have as many as 99 chickens, presuming there are no other animals kept on the property.
After Laubenstein presented his petition, commission members were more concerned about chicken coops on the Stewart property being closer than 30 feet from the lot line, the limit set by the zoning ordinance.
Following the new complaint procedure, commission member Todd Korb — a lawyer — was asked to visit the Stewart property and determine whether there is merit to the complaint.
If so, both sides will be given an opportunity to present their cases and the commission will determine whether to issue a citation.
Town Chairman Don Hamm called the complaint “a test case” on how to handle enforcement of the new ordinance.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to come to a solution that will allow them to live together in harmony,” Hamm said.