When Jared Vredenburg moved to Ashland five years ago, he appreciated its small town feel and proximity to a mid-sized city like Columbia.
He enjoys living in a place where he can get to know his neighbors and get away from the politics of a big city.
Another feature of interest to him was the ability to raise animals in his home, which his wife had grown up on when she lived on a breeding farm.
So, after he and his family moved into their new home in Ashland, Vredenburg began planning to build a chicken coop. But he moved to Iowa before he had a chance to start the backyard project.
When Vredenburg returned to Ashland a little over a year ago with his 2 year old son, he wanted to raise him with important tasks for which he was responsible. So he started the henhouse project again.
“It’s a good feeling of accomplishment when you can raise something yourself and eat the eggs that you helped raise,” Vredenburg said.
Only this time, he realized that it would be impossible to build the chicken coop by following the city ordinances.
The Ashland city code stipulated that chicken coops should be at least 100 feet from a dwelling, with a maximum of five chickens. Vredenburg’s current property is not large enough to guarantee that the co-op could be 100 feet from his home and the homes of its neighbors.
“We are proud of our town as being agricultural, but we can’t do anything about it,” said Vredenburg.
His first step in changing this restriction was to contact the mayor of Ashland, Richard Sullivan, who referred him to the council of aldermen. They held a town hall meeting and the board agreed to Vredenburg’s request to change the ordinance.
He also worked closely with Ashland town planner Dan Vandevoorde, who helped him by researching municipal ordinances for chicken coops in other towns.
Vandevoorde also surveyed the new housing estates, which determined what would be a reasonable limit for the proximity of a cooperative to the houses.
The city came up with the idea of reducing the distance from other dwellings to 75 feet, and Vredenburg agreed.
The change was passed unanimously at the Alderman’s Council meeting on Nov. 2, along with another amendment that the distance to a house can be shortened by 15 feet for each chicken less than the maximum of five.
“It gave the citizens very good flexibility on what they can do,” said Vandevoorde.
While it doesn’t happen often, Vandevoorde said there are times when residents come to the city government to change the ordinances.
That’s why a process is in place to make these changes in collaboration with the community, he said.
Vredenburg has yet to set up the henhouse for his son, but he hopes to have the chicks in February when the season starts again.