Ordinance revision opens the door for chickens

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

A revision to Marlinton’s Animal and Fowl Ordinance could soon take effect and allow residents to keep up to five egg-laying hens on their property.

Council member Mark Strauss took the floor at last Tuesday’s Marlinton Town Council meeting to present a revision to Marlinton’s current animal ordinance.

Strauss’ revision would allow residents to own a maximum of five, egg-laying hens and permit them to be kept on a single-family housing lot, as long as a fenced coop that allots a minimum of two square feet per hen is kept and maintained.

Roosters, fighting birds, breeding chickens, ducks or other fowl will not be permitted on any property, nor will apartments or multi-family housing units be allowed to have chickens on the premise.

An annual permit, which can be obtained for $1, is required, regardless of the number of permitted chickens a person may have.

Strauss’ revision met with mixed reactions from both council and the public.

“I have a major problem with this proposal,” council member Norris Long said. “I don’t want a bunch of chickens beside my house making noises and messes, and the way your number one is written ‘and those animals kept for agricultural purposes only’ opens the doors for pigs and cows.”

When asked why Strauss brought up the revision, he said that he wished to allow egg-laying chickens in the town limits for food for any resident.

“I’m all for chickens and eggs,” remarked recorder B.J. Gudmundsson, “but it could turn into a farm in a hurry. My granddad had a farm, and I know what chickens do and how dirty they are. People, in a lot of these houses, don’t even clean up after their own human mess. I don’t see them cleaning up after chicken mess, and who’s going to enforce it? It seems to me that we have a lot of ordinances in town that we’re having difficulty enforcing now. There are violations all over town.”

Strauss answered Gudmundsson’s concerns with a reference to Section 3-112 of the Article III Animal and Fowl Ordinance.

“It says that ‘keeping any animal or fowl…clean and sanitary conditions at all times, free of any unwholesome or offensive substance, liquid or odor, so as to not constitute, in the opinion of personnel, a nuisance,’” he quoted. “We do have an ordinance already in effect that, as B.J. said, we’re not enforcing. We could enforce that.

“There is a statewide wave coming through, and it’s called Pets with a Purpose. It’s allowing animals, such as egg-laying chickens, to be allowed, and there are ordinances ­– working on, if not already in place – in Beckley, Bluefield and Charleston, also in Roanoke, Virginia, allowing chickens in residential areas. It doesn’t allow any other animals in the residential area – which the beginning part of this section does say ‘any person to own or keep any agricultural animal or fowl within the corporal limits.’ Other than chickens is what I was stating. It still states that you can’t have any other animals in town.”

Mayor Sam Felton reined in the discussion and called for a vote. Council members voted 4-3 in favor of the revision, and the revised ordinance passed its first of two required readings.

“All residents – for pros and cons, for or against – can please contact any council person to discuss this,” Strauss urged. “The public’s input is always important, and we serve at the public’s request.”

Specialized Deer Hunt

Chickens were not the only animal to cross the council’s table.

“It was brought to my attention – the special deer hunt that’s been talked about for some time,” Felton said. “Some want it, some don’t. I have to tell you that I have a lot of mixed feelings about it myself. I always envision a worse case scenario of a deer coming from Lakeview with an arrow inside it and deciding to die down here under the traffic lights someplace, but nevertheless, I wanted to at least put it on the agenda to let folks know that we are thinking about it and considering it.”

The specialized deer hunt was first brought to the table during Joe Smith’s administration.

Concerned with the exceedingly abundant population of deer throughout the county, the council sought advice from a DNR officer in French Creek.

“The DNR gentleman came and met with us twice,” Smith said. “It is a successful program across the state.”

“We sought input from other areas putting this hunt into effect due to diseases and inbreeding amongst the deer,” added former council member Loretta Malcolm.

Should the council vote it into action, the hunt will come with a strict set of guidelines.

“For those who are not aware, the deer hunt is only open to bow hunting,” Long explained. “The dates will be prior to regular deer season, run up to the end of December and the deer taken will not count toward a hunter’s seasonal game.”

“Once you have your designated areas that you’re going to allow hunting in, the DNR will tell you how many hunters you can have,” Smith added. “It can be as few as five, or it can be more than that. The hunters also have to be able to shoot downwards, which almost means they have to be in a tree stand or on something up higher.”

There will be no hunting permitted within residential limits, and private property owners must give permission for a hunt to occur on their land. Written permission must also be obtained from the council.

The number of deer a hunter can take will also be determined by the council, as well as the fee for hunting.

“I think we had a small fee – $5 or something like that,” explained Long, “and we had up to three does, but after three, you could take a buck.”

Despite all that was discussed, the hunt was tabled until a later date.

In other news:

  • The council heard a presentation from Pocahontas County Prevention Specialist and Coordinator Cheryl Jonese on the prevention efforts being introduced within the schools and throughout the county.
  • The council adopted the Town Evaluation and Transition Plan and Grievance Procedure as presented by Region IV.
  • Vacant Lot Committee member Joe Smith appeared before the council with an update concerning the vacant lot next to the Opera House. The work-in-progress proposal will allow for 30 parking spaces and for Pioneer Days vendors to be moved south of Main Street.
  • This year’s Halloween and Trick-or-Treat event will take place on Saturday, October 31, from 5-7 p.m.
  • A transfer of current budgeted funding to the Fire Department was approved by the council.
  • The council made a motion to move forward with preparations for an auction and selling of scrap materials.
  • The council appointed James R. Mitchem as the new Water Plant Operator for a probationary period of 90 days.

The next regular Marlinton Town Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 5, at 7:00 p.m.

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