As Columbiana cracks down on rules, residents fight to keep chickens

COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WYTV) – Some Columbiana residents are fighting to keep the chickens they’re raising as the city starts to crack down on a law that’s largely been ignored for 40 years.

Columbiana is threatening to fine¬†chicken owners if they don’t get rid of the animals by February.

It started when a man asked if he could raise deer on his property. When he was denied, a discussion about regulations for animal owners started.

It has some residents feeling like they’re being singled out.

Former Mayor of Columbiana Richard Simpson has been raising chickens in his backyard for three and a half years. He calls them “pets with benefits,” saying they’re very therapeutic.

“They’ll follow me around when they’re out,” Simpson said. “It’s quiet, they’re nice pets. I think I should have the right to do things on my property besides just live here.”

He’s never had any issues until last November when he, and other chicken owners, received a letter that said they had until February 1 to get rid of their chickens.

“Oh, I wanted to cry because I’ve had them for three to four years and they’re my pets,” Mallory Cooper said.

Cooper lives in the city and said even though the law has been in place since 1974, it was never enforced.

City Council Member Crystal Siembida Boggs said the zoning law is wide-ranging.

“Currently, our ordinances state that if you do not see it specifically written, then you are not technically allowed to have it.”

Because the rules are so vague, she said they also forbid a person from having a garden on their lawn.

Residents packed into the city council meeting Tuesday night. Some were not confident the law would be changed.

Council Member Skip Liston is hoping lawmakers can find a reasonable solution to owning chickens within the city.

Councilman Ted Soulder asked for specifics on what animals will be allowed.

“It’s chickens today. Goats, pigs, cows. I’m just throwing this out, where do we draw the line?”

Liston wants the law to be focused on just chickens for now.

The crowd applauded when council voted 4-2 to send the issue to the city planning commission to work out a solution.

Most council members agreed the laws need to change. They hope the planning commission will consider other areas that have similar laws and use that as a basis for new regulations.