September 21, 2015

No resolution to woman keeping pet chickens

Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2015 5:18 pm | Updated: 5:41 pm, Thu Sep 17, 2015.
By GARY HANNER, Times Associate Editor

SPRINGVILLE — The struggle for an elderly woman to keep pet chickens in the city continues.

The problem began when Debra Milton bought seven chickens on June 2. They were two days old. She bought them for Jamie Tarpley, her 92-year-old mother who is in the early stages of dementia.

Tarpley’s neighbor, David Lamb, complained about the chickens, saying it is against city ordinance, and it diminishes property value.

At the council meeting last week, Lamb and Joe Cox spoke publicly concerning the situation.

“I have done a lot of research,” Cox said. “We think we are going to be overrun with chickens, but we’re not. Everyone in Springville is not going out to buy chickens. All I ask is for you to turn this over to the Planning and Zoning Board.”

Cox also wanted to know if the board meetings were open to the public, and he was told they were.

Cox presented a petition to the city council that was signed by 122 people that says they want the council to look at this situation.

“We are not trying to force anyone’s hand,” Cox said. “We would like for the city to get the zoning board to look at changing the ordinance.”

City attorney James Hill III said a variance requested by Milton was denied due to legal reasons.

“She has asked that we revise that ordinance and is asking for this council to send it to the planning commission, which the mayor can do,” Hill said.

Lamb said he did not see how changing this ordinance can benefit the people of Springville.

“First of all, it’s just not chickens,” Lamb said. “If you change the ordinance, it is for all farm animals like goats, cows, whatever. If you want a goat or cow in your front yard, that’s great and wonderful. Move out to the country. We have invested a lot of money in our homes. When we did this, we did so with the intention of staying there. Now somebody wants to change the ordinance for their own personal benefit. Your decision, if you decide to let it go through, affects me. And it affects my property value. When you look at it, I don’t see how it can benefit Springville.

“This body will take no action on this matter whatsoever tonight,” Isley said. “We couldn’t legally even if we wanted to. This situation will be sent to the Planning and Zoning Commission so they can examine the matter. There are nine members of that board. Should the majority of that board decide a city ordinance that pertains to this type of matter needs to be revised or changed, that board would recommend to the city council and bring it back to the city council. At that Planning and Zoning meeting is where a public hearing is held. And any citizen can come to that public hearing.”

Isley said his mother has Alzheimer’s.

“For those of you who made comments about this city council, not knowing about the disease, you don’t know that,” Isley said. “We do, so keep those comments to yourself, and let this body make its decision without so much emotion being involved. Let’s just do what is right for the community and the community as a whole. Always. That’s all I ask.”

“At the conclusion of this meeting, and in fact this request is sent to the Planning and Zoning Commission, I request that the council and mayor not issue public comment about their opinions one way or another to the public or press,” Hill said. “That’s why we have the Planning and Zoning Commission. They will do the research and make a recommendation, perhaps, and then send it back to the council. At that time it would be up to you to act on a potential amendment to the zoning ordinance. There is a legal process we have to go through to even change that zoning ordinance.”

Contact Gary Hanner at

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