Commissioners voted 6-2 on Monday to table action on a request from Chris and Erin Lewis for a special use permit to continue keeping four hens at their Fair Oaks subdivision home.
The motion also referred the issue back to the Rome-Floyd Planning Commission for a set of recommended conditions on any urban poultry permit.
It also put a moratorium on accepting new applications and allowed the Lewises to keep their birds until the question is resolved.
“It’s a thing that’s not going away. It’s a trend. It’s something people want to do,” Commissioner Kim Canada said during a caucus discussion. “I think we need to set some rules and conditions that we as a community are willing to live with.”
The commission has twice rejected an ordinance that would have allowed and regulated urban poultry-keeping.
Canada said he’d rather track the activity by having individuals apply for special use permits that contain strict conditions. His four-part motion was supported by Commissioners Milton Slack III, Jamie Doss, Sue Lee, Detrick Redding and Bill Collins.
Commissioners Buzz Wachsteter and Bill Irmscher were opposed. Irmscher said a majority of residents he polled don’t want chickens in their neighbors’ yards. Wachsteter objected to the provision that exempts the Lewises’ hens.
“I think (the issue) needs further study, but I don’t understand how we can suspend enforcement of the law for one family,” Wachsteter said.
Officials publicly stated they’re aware residents keep urban poultry, but the prohibition isn’t enforced unless there’s a complaint. The Lewises had theirs for about three years, for eggs and as teaching tools for their young homeschooled daughters, until an elderly and ailing neighbor complained.
The woman’s daughter, Regina Bishop, said she didn’t mind temporary amnesty for the Lewises’ flock as long as tougher regulations would be crafted.
She brought about a dozen backers, some of whom testified about the potential for disease and loss of property values. Paul Peterson said Rome “should be embarrassed” to have urban poultry like a third-world country.
“We have to make a decision if we want to be a city that does not allow farm animals in its environs” or let them run loose, Peterson said.
But about 35 attendees rose in support of the Lewises, and Chris Lewis noted a Facebook page called “I Support Backyard Hens in Rome, GA” has more than 300 members.
Pouring permits suspended
In other actions, the City Commission approved three-day suspensions of the alcohol pouring licenses at Mi Alazan, 2 Central Plaza; El Toro, 2115 Shorter Ave.; and Stonebridge Grill, in the city-owned Stonebridge Golf Club managed by Billy Casper Golf.
Mi Alazan and El Toro will not be allowed to serve alcohol this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The suspension at Stonebridge is for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The restaurants were caught serving minors during a September police sting operation.
The Alcohol Control Commission has recommended a two-day penalty at Stonebridge but the board voted 5-4 to match the punishment at the other venues. In favor were Wachsteter, Collins, Slack, Irmscher and Mayor Evie McNiece. Opposed were Canada, Doss, Lee and Redding.
Canada called for the ACC to establish consistency in its penalties, which can range from a letter of warning to multi-day suspensions for the same offense.