City Council Approves City’s COVID-19 Response, Postpones Vote on Backyard Chickens

Clovis Roundup Photo

The Clovis City Council for now, voted not to allow residents to keep hen chickens as pets during the Monday night city council meeting. Among other items, the council also received an update on the COVID-19 crisis.

The first item from the agenda to be heard by the council was an ordinance that would allow residents to keep up to three hen chickens as pets.

George Rodriguez from the Clovis Animal Services presented the item to the Council. The ordinance designated hen chickens as pets, however it required residents to have a minimum lot size of 5,000 square feet. Also, owners have to keep the chickens in an enclosure with a minimum of 15 square feet and a maximum of 42 square feet.

Mentioned in the ordinance was that owners must keep the chicken enclosure at least five feet from the property line and at least 20 feet from any dwelling. The ordinance also stipulated that all feed must be kept in airtight containers, banned roosters and any commercial egg-laying operations.

The council acknowledged it received 14 emails in favor of the ordinance and 49 against the ordinance.

Councilmember Bob Whalen introduced new language to the ordinance that called for neighbors to approve of any home having chickens. This would not be a legal permit for chicken owners to have, but rather a good faith agreement between neighbors.

“As the city has grown we haven’t lost sight of our small town values, one of those values being the ability to connect with our agricultural heritage,” Whalen said. “I think this ordinance is worth trying at least for a year and see if it is something that can help build the community.”

This new addition caused Mayor Pro Tem Jose Flores to change his stance on the ordinance and asked for that to be taken out, because he felt that this was over reaching by the government. Flores also said that he felt the ordinance didn’t need this addition and the ordinance works fine without it.

However, Councilmember Vong Mouanoutoua disagreed with Flores, saying that he felt this was a better way for the ordinance to be implemented. Mouanoutoua mentioned that he preferred this “good neighbor” policy in the ordinance and if it wasn’t on it he would be less likely to vote for it.

Councilmember Lynne Ashbeck said that she was not for the ordinance and that she felt that this was the wrong time to introduce something of that nature to the council.

“I can’t find any way to say that the investment in this is a really good idea,” Ashbeck said. “We are in the middle of a pandemic..our staff is lean, we are trying to keep our jobs and we are talking about chickens?”

Ashbeck mentioned that she would rather vote for this ordinance in the future once the pandemic is less prevalent.

Two public comments were heard by the council, one for the ordinance and one against.

Clovis Chief of Police Curt Fleming was also called to comment on the ordinance and its impact on the city. Fleming mentioned he was not for or against the ordinance, but was concerned about an increase in calls that might happen if the ordinance is implemented.

Mayor Drew Bessinger asked if they could change the wording from an airtight feed container to an airtight metal feed container. The change was to discourage rodents and insects from eating the chicken feed. Councilmember Whalen agreed and the wording was added to the ordinance.

The council voted unanimously to revisit the ordinance at a later date.

Rezoning East Clovis

The next item on the agenda was the rezoning of 34 acres near the area of Leonard and Barstow from low density residential area to medium density residential area.

Residents of Highland Avenue had concerns with the rezoning since they are adjacent to the area and would see their neighborhood. They claimed that the developer had little interactions with the neighbors and was not responding to their concerns.

However, the council showed that the developer Bonadelle Neighborhoods had taken steps to accommodate residents in the area.

The council voted unanimously to pass the rezoning of the land.

COVID-19 Update

The last item on the council meeting for the public was the resolution for the city council to confirm the orders by the director of emergency services. The order allowed businesses impacted by COVID-19 to temporarily expand into public and private common areas under specified circumstances.

The motion passed unanimously by the city council.

After the vote, City Manager Luke Serpa gave the council some information on how the pandemic is affecting the city of Clovis. Serpa said that Clovis was the fourth city in the county with the most cases of COVID-19.

“People got careless when we started to reopen, they started going to social gatherings…this caused cases to explode,” Serpa said. “One thing the state can do is to come through with some re-closures to remind people that we are still in the middle of a pandemic.”

Serpa mentioned that the Central Valley had seen big spikes in the spread of the virus in the last few weeks and that 50 of the 149 Intensive Care Unit beds in the county were being used by COVID-19 patients.

Jorge Rodriguez
Jorge Rodriguez has a passion for journalism and wants to bring the community information and great stories. After high school Jorge joined the U.S. Army and while in active duty he was deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in college he worked for the Fresno City College Rampage and the Fresno State Collegian newspapers. He graduated from Fresno State in 2019 with a degree in print journalism.