No chickens allowed in Alexandria city limits

Concerns were raised about enforcement, licensing, Avian flu, chicken waste, predators.

While several cities in Minnesota allow chickens to be kept in city limits, Alexandria is not one of them.
Rick Abbott / Forum News Service

ALEXANDRIA – A proposal to allow chickens to be raised inside the city limits isn’t going to fly, at least anytime soon.

After holding several public hearings on the issue, the Alexandria Planning Commission voted to submit a report to the Alexandria City Council with its findings but did not provide a specific recommendation to the council.

At a Monday, May 22 meeting, council member Roger Thalman made a motion to refer the matter to the city's Legislative Committee and have the committee draft an ordinance to allow the chickens, but no one seconded the motion.

Council member Bill Franzen then made a motion to keep the city's ordinance that prohibits chickens in place. It was approved 3-1 with Thalman casting the no vote. (Council member Scott Allen wasn't at the meeting.)

During the public comment period, Joanna Hollenbeck, a resident on Victoria Drive, urged the council to allow pet chickens. She said the city could enact measures to prevent avian flu viruses, require minimum lot sizes and restrict the number of chickens a resident could have. She also suggested having a veterinarian care for chickens.


Hollenbeck said she checked with several other cities that allow chickens. She said Clearwater has had no complaints since it started allowing chickens two years ago and that Park Rapids only had very few complaints.

The public hearings before the Planning Commission drew spirited comments for and against the idea. City Planner Mike Weber summed up the key questions that were raised:

  • Who will review and issue the license? City hall staff is not equipped and doesn’t have the capacity to review and approve plans for coops, runs, fencing and other protective environments, all of which are key components to the proposal. Once those items are installed, who would inspect them to ensure that the built product matches the plans?
  • Who will police the chickens? Although Police Chief Scott Kent did indicate his belief that enforcement will ultimately lie with his department, he acknowledges that his staff is not set up for additional animal control activities.
  • What additional burden may be placed on Lake Area Humane Society, and how will that burden be funded?
  • Although the proposal indicates that no sale of eggs would be allowed, how will such a prohibition be enforced?
  • How will chicken waste matter be disposed of? Although it was suggested that the waste could be composted for gardening, even the proposer admits that, since not every home has or wants a garden, there’s no sure way to manage waste.
  • Avian flu. Nearby counties such as Wadena, Todd, Stearns, Otter Tail and Pope have all reported avian flu since the first of the year. Who will enforce the proposed safety provisions intended to protect backyard flocks, and wild birds? And who will ensure that contaminated birds will be properly disposed of?
  • Predator and rodent control. Since predators are attracted to chickens and rodents are attracted to the chickens’ feed, how will the community be affected by backyard flocks?

At their May 15 meeting, Planning Commission members were asked to make a statement.
Franzen, who also sits on the city council, said the city has spent a lot of time on hearing all aspects of the topic and he recommended leaving the city code as is. He added that he’s seen foxes and coyotes in his neighborhood on the west side of Lake Henry and was concerned about predators causing problems.

The other four commission members — Chris Huether, Tyler Notch, Susan Anderson and Adam Barnett — supported the option of forwarding on the feedback that was presented at the hearings without making a recommendation. They said the commission had done its “due diligence” on the subject by listening and gathering information.

The commission voted 5-0 to submit a report without a specific recommendation.

Still, some members expressed remorse about not finding a way to allow the chickens.

“It’s sad if this can’t happen,” Barnett said at the commission meeting. “It’s just one more thing that we are denying our kids from doing. It’s good for them to get away from the technology and experience nature. It’s disappointing that a path forward couldn’t be found.”

Anderson said that nine years ago when the city was considering allowing chickens, she was in favor of the idea but she isn’t feeling the same way now, especially with avian flu outbreaks in nearby counties.


Weber said other communities that allow chickens allocate resources differently than Alexandria. Some have animal control officers on staff, and some have permit technicians that do the plan review and site viewing of chicken coops.

Weber said city staff in Alexandria is fully engaged in residential, commercial and industrial building activity and the police department doesn’t have a regular animal control officer. “It’s simply a matter of different priorities,” he said.

Mike Weber
Mike Weber
licia marie photography

In other zoning action, the council:

  • Issued Douglas County a conditional use permit, allowing it to expand an existing permit to construct a building that will house both the sheriff’s office water patrol/tactical equipment and functions, and aquatic invasive species equipment. The site is adjacent to the existing Douglas County Public Works facility at 526 Willow Drive. The new building will occupy 16,800 square feet, nearly triple the size of the existing 6,000-square-foot structure. Landscaping and drainage plans are required.
  • Took preliminary action to protect and preserve the air space for the Alomere Health Heliport. It voted to amend the city’s zoning ordinance by regulating and restricting the height of structures and objects in the vicinity of the heliport pad. About three years ago, a state re-inspection found some non-compliant areas but the hospital has since brought the pad back into compliance.
  • Issued a conditional use permit to QF5 LLC, the new owners of Alex Power Equipment. This will allow open and outdoor storage of large power equipment and attachments. A chain link fence will be installed for security along with a white picket, two-rail fence. The storage area will be on a vacant parcel east of Alex Power Equipment on 50th Avenue.
  • Agreed to vacate a portion of 18th Avenue and create a subdivision. This will complete the city’s project of realigning and constructing 18th Avenue West between Broadway and Fillmore Street. The vacation will clear title to the portion of the public street that’s no longer needed. The realigned street has been open to traffic since last fall.
  • Approved a final plat for the Trenne Addition. James Trenne requested to plat a partially developed 4.41-acre tract of the land for the purpose of adjusting a lot line on Deerwood Drive. This is not a proposal for development and there are no public improvements included in the plat.

Help for Rosewood Lane flooding?

A plan to fix the drainage problems in the Rosewood Lane area took a step forward Monday night but still faces obstacles.

The council approved a bid of $207,218 from Mark Lee Excavating of Alexandria to construct a 1.4-acre regional pond to collect the excess water.

The action, however, is contingent on VIE Church, which is under construction, having a recorded drainage easement and making a financial contribution of $25,000 to help pay for the retention pond.

Council members expressed frustration that the church has not yet met those conditions. Members said they did not want flooding problems in the area lingering into late summer or fall. So it approved another motion that if the conditions are not met by May 26, the city will consider this as a violation of the church's conditional use permit and all construction on the church would have to cease.

The total cost of the project, with the VIE Church contribution, was estimated at $232,461. Mark Lee Excavating’s bid, one of 10 the city received, was the lowest.


A plan to improve Lake Winona

A project is in the works that could improve the water quality of Lake Winona.

Bethel Manor is doing a project this summer to improve the shoreline of the lake.

The project is being designed by the Douglas County Soil and Water District and it’s funding a portion of the total project.

This project, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven, presents an opportunity for the city to provide a stormwater treatment structure called a “Stormceptor” that will collect runoff from the streets and neighborhoods to the east and southeast of Bethel Manor. The total drainage area is 5.06 acres.

The Stormceptor is a prefabricated, underground unit that separates oils, grease, and sediment from stormwater runoff when installed with an existing or new pipe conveyance system.

The city has been looking into ways to improve the water quality on the lake dating back to 2010.

The new structure will remove about 1,027 pounds of suspended solids and about 5.2 pounds of phosphorus per year.

The city’s Stormwater Management Committee voted to provide up to $40,000 for the structure. The city will be responsible for the annual maintenance.


The council directed city staff to prepare an agreement with Bethel Manor and return to the council with plans and an agreement at a future meeting.

Update on road projects

City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven provided an update on several Alexandria area projects:

Highway 29 sidewalk project. All of the concrete sidewalk has been poured. The remaining work includes a small amount of bituminous paving and turf restoration. Work is scheduled to be complete by early June.

18th Avenue. The contractor continues to work installing underground utilities on 18th Avenue between Nokomis and Jefferson. Work also continues on Jefferson Street between
12th Avenue and 18th Avenue. Much of the sidewalk on Jefferson has been poured and the
existing pavement has been milled. Work is scheduled to be complete in August.

Local street paving projects. This preconstruction meeting for this project is set for next week. Work is scheduled to be complete by the end of June.

SunOpta/Good Neighbors public utilities. Work on the public portion of this project is scheduled to begin within the next two weeks. The city will be inspecting the construction of the public streets and utilities.

Roundabouts. Work on the three area roundabouts has begun. All three projects are being constructed simultaneously. Work is scheduled to be complete in August.

Traffic calming island. The council agreed to allow a temporary traffic calming island at Eighth Avenue and Kenwood Street. Residents living in the area who were concerned about traffic safety requested the island. Although the intersection has had just three crashes in the last five years and has an average driving speed of 19 miles per hour, drivers are not paying attention when they go through the intersection, according to City Planner Mike Weber. Residents wanted to try the calming island for a couple of weeks and may request it to remain in place for the summer and fall. It would be the sixth traffic calming island in the city.


Nokomis reconstruction project. Schoonhoven said the timing for this project will change. Instead of starting from 22nd Avenue to 18th Avenue this year, it will be done next year.

Faith Rose 5K approved

The council issued a special event permit to Sarah Roers to hold the annual “Faith Rose 5K” on Saturday, Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The race brings awareness to pregnancy and infant loss. It will begin and end at City Park, using the trail to the Central Lakes Trail.

About 250 participants are expected to attend.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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