The Portland City Council held a lengthy discussion on regulations regarding domesticated fowl (chickens, ducks, etc.) during its April 5 meeting.

It was the council’s first meeting in the remodeled conference room at Portland City Hall as construction is finally complete on the facility.

“We’re all happy to be here in person and get back to running things normally,” said alderwoman Megann Thompson.

In October of 2019, the council passed certain regulations to the city’s municipal code, including a ban on roosters or breeding, requirements on waste storage and disposal and lot restrictions.

“It wasn’t easy when we brought it and talked about it … there’s no perfect thing,” Portland Mayor Mike Callis said. “It probably needs to be a number. I don’t know what the number is.”

One resident, Wes Lugten, noted that he had received a number of citations but had not been notified of any complaints from his neighbors.

“We use our eggs to provide for our family,” Lugten said. “We eat the chickens. We had to get rid of everything we’d worked for. My food supply has gone way down.”

Lugten also questioned the propriety of allowing animal control to use social media to share information about who raises chickens.

“The woman came on my property without a warrant,” Lugten said. “That’s how they find out who has stuff. She’ll see who’s posting about their birds, come to city hall and see who’s in the city and then approach them.”

Lugten also accused animal control of retaliating against people who had filed harassment complaints against the department’s officials.

Alderman Thomas Dillard came to the defense of animal control, saying, “She’s only doing her job, and she’s doing a good job. I guarantee you go to court, you will find there is a complaint.”

Alderman Mike Hall said that complaints about animal control needed to be directed to the police department and go through the city’s human resources department.

“How many dogs can you have in the city limits,” Hall said, who noted he voted against the resolution in 2019. “I don’t think we limit that. If it’s a pet, how are you going to regulate a pet?”

Police Chief Jason Williams added, “This law is on the books because there was an issue. I won’t say what the number should be, but there should be a number. One person can ruin it for everybody.”

Portland Vice Mayor Drew Jennings reminded the council of past history.

“We had a major issue a few years ago, and it was bad,” Jennings said. “There’s got to be some kind of resolution.

“I’m fine with changing the number, but I want to have something on the books.”

Rachel Harmon asked for the ban on roosters to be lifted, saying, “I myself do have one, and he’s my baby. They’re flock protection. Hawks do get in still. I think it needs to be relooked at.”

The council voted on second reading to allow the city’s building inspector to, at his discretion, waive building permit fees in cases of natural disaster. The provision is known as the Buzz Black Provision. Black had proposed the idea.

An ordinance to amend the North Gateway Planning Study for approximately 41 acres on Woods Road from institutional to residential passed on first reading.

“Institutional would be something like a hospital, community center, some kind of semi-government use,” said Portland City Planner Kealan Millies-Lucke. “This is a request from the proposed owners of the property, and they’re looking for residential use.”

Two rezonings were approved — changing 109 Liberty Street from medium density residential to central business district on first reading, and changing three lots on West Market Street to high density residential on second reading.

The council also voted to allow the city to accept maintenance responsibility for two alleyways on William Mack Lane.

Aldermen voted on first reading to adopt the 2018 International Fire Codes, with relations to inspection activities and enforcement of building provisions.

“This will allow us to work with a contractor and look at their specific situation and do what’s best for the city,” said Portland Fire Chief Sam Thornton.

Changes were also approved on first reading to the city’s fireworks ordinances.

“There really wasn’t much of a change other than time to shoot,” said alderman Jody McDowell.

Under the new ordinance, fireworks could be discharged from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. from June 25 through July 5, from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. on July 4, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1, and from 10 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Council members approved a $38,000 agreement for professional services regarding a state industrial access project.

“There is a state industrial access project going on for Eubanks Road,” said Utilities Director Bryan Price. “It starts at Vaughn Parkway, Lake Springs Road, the end of 109, and is going to run to the top of the hill. There are utilities out there, and we are responsible for relocation and right-of-way acquisition.”

The council also approved using up to $10,000 of unspent governor’s grant funds to purchase schedule and record management for the fire department.

In his comments to open the meeting, Callis said his office had received numerous calls asking whether there would be a fall festival again this year. The city held a fall event last year after the annual Strawberry Festival was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That was pretty successful, to the point where people are asking, ‘Can we do a fall festival in addition to the Strawberry Festival,’ ” Callis said. “That will require some city support.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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