The city of La Crosse, Wisconsin had a council meeting Tuesday August 10 on the policy of legally allowing chickens within city limits. The policy, modeled after a Madison ordinance, would allow up to five chickens at a single property.

The city’s Judiciary and Administration Committee last week recommended the ordinance on a 3-2 vote, with the caveat that applicants get approval from 50 percent of owner-occupied properties within 100 feet – a provision carried over from the great pigeon debate about six years ago.

“That’s obviously working,” said council member Doug Farmer, “so why would we want to reinvent the wheel?”

Tuesday’s final result was an 8-8 split and the tie vote came after failed attempts to both delay and table the resolution, which has provoked considerable community debate. The proposed ordinance will go before the Common Council on Thursday without a recommendation from the committee.

Opponents on the council said they were concerned about property values, chicken owners who would abuse the ordinance, a lack of city resources to enforce the restrictions.

Council member Andrea Richmond stated that chickens, quite simply, belong on farms, not in urban communities.

Council member Jai Johnson, one of the council’s leading sustainability advocates, argued that too much of the opposition is based on false premises, “that hundreds, if not thousands, of people will be lining up outside City Hall wanting to build a chicken coop” and that “because some people won’t follow the rules, we should prohibit everyone from being able to do this.

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