Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Mattawa reviews chicken ordinance

by Rachal Pinkerton, For the Columbia Basin Herald
| April 7, 2021 1:00 AM

MATTAWA — The Mattawa City Council discussed the possibility of reforming the city’s chicken ordinance during a virtual, regular meeting on Thursday.

The request to look at the ordinance was brought to the council by Mayor Maggie Celaya, who expressed a desire to make it easier for residents to apply for a chicken license.

The current ordinance states chicken owners must acquire a chicken coop license and have the coop inspected prior to chickens arriving on the property. An annual license must also be acquired each year.

In the past 10 years, only one person has applied for a chicken license. A resident on Fourth Street applied in 2018. Mattawa City Clerk Anabel Martinez said when residents hear about the fees, they leave and don’t apply for the license.

“People can buy chickens for really cheap,” Martinez said. “Then they have to pay $50 for them (coop fee) and a $10 annual fee. I think that discourages them.”

Celaya told the council she had been “going back and forth” with Martinez on how to “make it easier for citizens to have chickens” prior to becoming mayor. She proposed removing the one-time coop fee and having chicken licenses be similar to dog licenses. She also proposed allowing senior citizens to purchase life-time chicken and dog licenses. Other changes would include having chicken and dog licenses on the same form.

“I think it would make the process easier for our citizens,” Celaya said.

But not all council members were excited about changing the ordinance. Council member Sun Hwang expressed several concerns about chickens raised in town. He pointed to a lack of butcher shops in the area and the ordinance stating residents are not allowed to slaughter animals in city limits as one problem.

“They’re raising them to slaughter,” Hwang said. “They probably use one of the local non-licensed people or do it by themselves. They legally can’t kill in the city, and there is no licensed meat shop.”

During the summer, Hwang also said, the city’s current chicken population is released outdoors to freely run after being raised inside. He said having chickens in the country, where neighbors are relatively far apart, make sense, but not in town where fecal smells and loose chickens could bother neighbors.

“Other people don’t like chickens running around,” Hwang said. “I’m asking you guys to be considerate.”

Hwang, who is also a property owner in Mattawa, said he is struggling with the dogs and chickens in town. He said not enough code enforcement is done with the issues the city already has. He estimated there are 200 dogs in town, while only 100 to 150 dogs are licensed.

“There are residents that raise chickens inside their apartment,” Hwang said. “I don’t want to make it any easier.”

Council member Wendy Lopez asked how the spread of chicken-related viruses could be prevented in the community when it is difficult to show proof of vaccination for chickens.

“I know with dogs, they have to show proof of vaccination,” Lopez said. “With chickens, it’s a little different. How do we keep the city safe?”

Lopez also asked how mice and rodents, which are attracted by chickens, would be kept in control and not allowed to cause damage. Celaya referred to Kitsap County, where the licensed owner would be responsible for the eradication of pests as to how Mattawa could expect such issues to be handled.

Lopez suggested licensed chickens wear a leg band so the owner can be contacted if the bird gets loose.

Council member Vicente Acosta said as a property owner, he would have issues with the current ordinance, which states city officials are allowed on licensees property to do coop inspections.

“Say someone goes on to someone’s property to inspect,” Acosta said. “What if they find something else, more serious? That could cause legal problems, I’d think. I personally wouldn’t want anyone coming onto my property to inspect my property. I’d want notice.”

He also pointed out he interpreted the current ordinance as only allowing residents to raise chickens for eggs, not for eating.

During the meeting, no decisions were made on how the ordinance may be revised. The issue was tabled for the next city council meeting.