Chris Lewis and his wife, Erin Lewis, have chickens at their residence on Hycliff Road in Fair Oaks subdivision.
The 5-4 decision came on the same night that the commission passed guidelines concerning the keeping of backyard chickens by residents.
The requirements can be applied to special-use permits on a case-by-case basis and are set to go into effect May 1.
Possible minimum lot size requirements went through several permutations until a decision was reached.
Chris Lewis spoke during the public hearing portion of the evening and said the city was running the risk of discriminating against a majority of the citizens of Rome.
“With a possible requirement of around three-quarters of an acre and a 30-foot setback from property lines, you’re talking about restricting the ability to have chickens to only about 10 percent of the residents in this town,” Chris Lewis said.
“Showing this level of restrictions on chickens is disproportionate. … A burden is being placed on a person who wants to keep a few chickens,” he said.
A proposal to set the minimum lot size at 12,000 square feet was denied by a 5-4 vote with Commissioners Sue Lee, Detrick Redding, Kim Canada and Bill Collins voting to approve the revisions while Commissioners Jamie Doss, Bill Irmscher, Milton Slack III, Buzz Wachsteter and Mayor Evie McNiece voted to deny it. An acre consists of 43,560 square feet.
Irmscher then motioned to raise the proposed limit to about three quarters of an acre, citing that it would allow for a larger buffer from neighbors.
He also noted that nearby cities similar in size to Rome require two acres or more to keep chickens or do not allow them at all.
The commission voted against the motion 5-3 with Irmscher, Slack and Wachsteter voting yes and Doss, Lee, Redding, Canada and Collins voting no.
Doss’ motion to set the minimum lot size to 30,000 square feet was passed by the board with Doss, Irmscher, Slack, and Wachsteter voting yes and Lee, Redding, Canada, and Collins voting no. McNiece cast her tie-breaking vote for yes, passing the stated revisions.
“I do believe that you need to have a good-sized lot,” Doss said. “The distance from the property lines is irrelevant versus the size of the lot.”
Collins voiced his concern that they were possibly excluding 90 to 70 percent of the city’s residents with that lot size.
Doss reminded those in attendance that, because of a grandfather clause, people who have had chickens for at least 10 years are not required to follow the guidelines.
“At this point, chickens are illegal inside the city limits,” Doss said. “This is a step in the right direction. We can see how it works and are always open to change.”
City Manager John Bennett reminded the commissioners that any special-use permit can be considered on a case-by-case basis despite lot size.
Lewis’ request for a special-use permit, which was tabled at the board’s Dec. 17 meeting to allow a better look at the guidelines, came up later in the meeting where it was denied.
Lee, Redding, Canada, and Collins voted to approve the request and Doss, Irmscher, Slack and Wachsteter voted to deny it. McNiece’s vote was no, which officially denied the request.
A set date for the Lewises to have the chickens off of their property was not given but Doss said that he would like to give them a “generous amount of time” for them to find a solution.
In other actions Monday, the City Commission:
<li> Voted to approve a resolution authorizing the city to begin the process of condemning 15 parcels located where the new Anna K. Davie Elementary School will be built.
According to the resolution, the properties are located on South Broad Street and East Main Street as well as Wimpee Street, and Pennington Avenue.
Kerry Brown, who owns seven of the parcels, including the old Howell Triangle Grocery building located in the fork of South Broad and East Main streets, spoke to the commission before the vote.
He showed photos of the building and said that it dates back to the 1920s.
“I would hate to see it torn down during our term here,” said Brown.
Collins said his presentation was informative and that the city and Rome City Schools have already purchased a number of parcels in the area.
“I want to make it aware that even though the process to condemn these buildings has started, it is not the end of the dialogue between the city and the property owners,” Collins said.
<li> Had a first reading of an alcohol ordinance amendment that was passed by the Alcohol Control Commission that authorizes the city to levy of monetary fine for violations that occur at establishments with alcohol licenses.
If the City Commission passes the ordinance, fines up to the City Charter and Code’s maximum limit of $2,000 could be levied instead of, or in addition to, current penalties.
<li> Voted to accept an assignment concerning the West Third Street development where a new hotel is going to be built on property currently owned by the city.
Among the items on the assignment was a change in the Memorandum of Understanding the city has with the developers, Samson Developers group, to accept a plan of no less than 102 rooms and that the hotel will be a four-story structure on top of a parking deck.
The Memorandum originally had the hotel, which is expected to be a Courtyard by Marriott, listed as having between 105 and 120 rooms and consisting of five stories.
Bennett said that design changes in the plans for the hotel led to it containing 104 rooms and being one story less.
The group is set to present the project to Marriott’s board of directors for formal approval sometime next week. An answer is expected by Feb. 8.
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