Rush City City Council focused on chickens in residential areas and a local shortage of child care options at its Jan. 9 meeting
City Administrator Amy Mell began the meeting with a staff report about chickens in residential districts based on a public meeting by the Planning Commission last month.
That commission recommended allowing up to six chickens in R1 and R2 districts; chickens already are allowed in rural residential districts.
Mell said that by allowing chickens, and the recommendation is only for chickens, “it requires us to add quite a bit to our zoning ordinance.”
Among the items that need to be added include the size of coops and runs, storage of feed and waste, and enforcement provisions.
“What about a fee, and then once they build the coop and run, then we should have it inspected?” council member Frank Storm asked. “So we are looking at 2-3 hours of city administrator’s time. ... The other thing I was concerned about was the neighbors and getting 60% of the adjacent neighbors’ approval.”
The city decided that it would need to create an application, and applicants must turn in a statement from the neighbors saying that the neighbors approve.
Council member Tom Schneider said he didn’t approve because he thought the ordinance would cause problems with neighbors.
He added that he didn’t think chickens should be allowed anywhere in town.
“So you aren’t in favor of barking dogs?” council member Mick Louzek asked. “I would rather have chickens than barking dogs.”
Storm made a motion that 60% of adjacent property owners would have to provide approval. The provision was added with Schneider voting no.
Storm then made a motion to approve the ordinance with the added provisions. The motion passed, with Schneider opposed.
Under the fee schedule discussion, Mell recommended a fee of $50, which council approved.
Child care in Chisago County
The council reviewed a report called the Chisago County Childcare Strategic Supply Plan.
The report states that, for parents looking for high-quality child care in Chisago County, the search can be difficult. This is compounded by the fact that the county is large and spread out.
In the county there is a child care capacity of 1,109 children; but 2,392 children under the age of 5 have all parents working.
Cost for family child care averages $650 per month, while child care in a center averages $858. This is for preschoolers, with infants often costing more.
Mell, who sits on the Chisago County Core Team, said the group spent five months creating strategies to improve child care throughout the county. The top nine recommendations (out of 30) are:
1. Explore local churches.
2. Explore partnerships with Head Start.
3. Reach out to employers to engage interest in subsidizing child care.
4. Explore the POD model in school districts.
5. Establish an advisory board for providers.
6. Find ways to distribute ARPA funds for the area.
7. Provider of the Year program.
8. Reach out to employers for sponsorships to offset costs.
9. Explore partnerships with local organizations to provide CPR and first aid training.
The committee is now looking to narrow this list down to four recommendations.
One idea is to approach churches to see if they would be interested in hosting child care facilities. The county also wants to work with existing providers to see what the needs are.
POD models would allow people to rent space in a public space to host a child care facility. Mell said that this would be for people that would like to start a child care business but don’t want to do it in their homes.
There is a need of 1,449 spots for children ages birth to 5 years old.
Mell said there are two members of the committee that are pregnant and having a difficult time finding child care.
One resident at the meeting said she was paying $950 a month for one child, “and that is on the cheap end.”
Council sworn in
The meeting began with the oath of office for the new mayor, Alan Johnson, and for the reelected council members, Frank Storm and Dan Meyer.