Backyard chicken support ends with 950 signatures

The petition drive initiative and referendum asking the City of Tecumseh to allow residents to keep backyard chickens has garnered 950 signatures, according to its organizers. The initiative and referendum process requires signatures collected from 10 percent of Tecumseh registered voters. Backyard chicken organizers had to collect 650 signatures, approximately 10 percent of the 6,500 registered voters from the last general election in 2014.The petition drive launched in April in response to Tecumseh City Council twice denying a request by residents to create a backyard chicken ordinance. Backyard chickens are currently banned in Tecumseh and possessing them could result in a misdemeanor charge. Neighboring areas including Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Chelsea, and Raisin Township allow residents to keep a limited number of hens.“The outstanding response to this petition demonstrates there is widespread support for a backyard chicken ordinance,” said Lee Walsh, a backyard chicken organizer. “Even people who don’t want chickens themselves were interested in signing for a variety of reasons.”The petition drive initiative and referendum is codified in the city’s charter and allows an ordinance to possibly be initiated by petition or referendum; however, state law no longer allows special elections, according to Tecumseh City Clerk Mary Feight.The group had 21 days to collect signatures once they began the petition drive. Now that the signatures are collected, the city clerk has 15 days to verify them. If there are not enough verifiable signatures, then the group is given an additional 15 days for collection. Once signatures are verified, the petition goes before city council, at which point council has 30 days to adopt the ordinance as submitted by an initiatory petition; repeal the ordinance, or part thereof, referred to by a referendary petition; or determine to submit the proposal provided for in the petition to the electors.Because of the restrictions on special elections by the state, if council decides to submit the proposal to the electors, it would need to be decided upon by council by July 28 for the August election, according to Feight. Jessica Whitehouse, a backyard chicken organizer, said, “We like to think of backyard chickens as ‘pets with benefits,’ such as teaching kids where food comes from and knowing that their food was raised humanely. We’re grateful for the opportunity to bring wider awareness of these issues to Tecumseh, and we’re confident that city council now has enough information to approve our ordinance without further delay.”A group of residents approached Tecumseh City Council last September seeking to enact an ordinance, which would have allowed Tecumseh residents to keep chickens in the city. Council decided in December to reject the group’s ordinance request and instead voted to toughen the city’s prohibited animal ordinance. A request for a backyard chicken pilot program was rejected in January.

Tecumseh Herald


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Tecumseh, MI 49286

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