RIVERDALE -- The American military has abandoned "Don't ask, don't tell" as a policy, but the Riverdale City Council has adopted the policy for its own use -- for chickens.
After extensive discussions, the council has decided passing a detailed ordinance about what is and is not acceptable about chicken coops in residential neighborhoods is more trouble than it's worth.
Residents and council members all joined the debate. Those opposed to the chicken ordinance said chickens may bring avian diseases or open the door to other farm animals.
"The issue is what chickens represent, farm animals in residential neighborhoods for food production. When you buy in a residential neighborhood you have a reasonable expectation that there will not be farm animals. If you want a farm experience, live in a farming community," Bart Stevens said.
Those supporting the ordinance said the city has had no complaints about chickens and that many other Utah cities are allowing birds to be kept in residential neighborhoods.
"You'd think from all the attention we're getting, we are talking about allowing elephants in apartments," Brent Coy said. "The planning commission (recommended approval) of an ordinance allowing pigeons and rabbits with no restrictions at all. I don't understand why one is OK and one isn't.
"The only argument is that a chicken lays an egg," Coy said. "How can it possibly be a bad thing to have an animal that actually gives you something back?"
Before council members voted on a motion to table the ordinance for more study and revision, City Administrator Larry Hansen asked them to consider leaving the rules the way they are.
"This thing is becoming extremely heavy, and I'm not sure you're going to find a solution. We have so few people who do this, (an ordinance) is not necessarily a wise thing. We can cover it with the existing nuisance ordinance and call it good," he said.
The council agreed with Hansen and unanimously rejected the ordinance detailing how chickens can be kept in residential areas in favor of what Councilwoman Shelly Jenkins called a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
City Attorney Steve Brooks said changes to the nuisance ordinance are forthcoming and may include specific language about chickens and other household pets.
"The best all-encompassing ordinance we have is the nuisance ordinance," Brooks said, "If they want to have pot-belly pigs and it doesn't bother anyone, fine. The city can stay out of someone's business until it bothers their neighbors."