February 19, 2009

Letter to the Editor: Caledonia not interested in sustainable living

The Caledonia Village Board voted down a proposal Wednesday night to allow residents to keep a small number of chickens in their yards. Patrick Flynn, of Caledonia, was a supporter of the ordinance. Here's his response:

What I observed last night, based on community comments was a division of generations. The older generations were clearly opposed, and the majority of the younger generations clearly supportive. Those that educated themselves and actually read the proposal were in favor. Those that did not, had visions of grand ‘ol chicken farms in their neighbors backyards. They feared everyone in their neighborhoods would want chickens and it would ruin their property values.

We based everything in our proposal on facts and testimonials from other communities that adopted this ordinance. The comments made from the opposition were so far off base that it tainted the entire proposal. Kevin Wanggard made the statement.. “We will not allow outside communities influence what we do in Caledonia, this is our community and that will not change”. The board voted based on emotions, “what ifs” and fear that if we changed this ordinance it would lead to other changes down the road.

Self -sustainability in Caledonia will be difficult. An older gentleman said “the next thing these folks will want is solar panels…. That will really bring down property values”. What is sad, is that I do want to install residential solar and wind to power my home. When I asked board member Kevin Wanggard about residential wind power I was told any attempt to change that ordinance will be futile. It is apparent that this community is just not ready for this new generation and this new era to be self-sustainable. The majority of board members are focused on commercial development rather than the quality of life for the people that live here. I truly believe the residents in Caledonia moved here because they wanted to get away from the city. That it was the rural setting, farm lands and open areas that attracted them here. I would hope that our board would recognize this and focus on ways to preserve our natural resources and find a way to reduce taxes in the process.

Patrick Flynn
4124 Mona Park Road


  1. A lost battle is not a lost war.
    Gather again and once more into the breach.

  2. Mr. Flynn -

    This is not about generationalism, but about zoning laws which were enacted to prevent a property owner from doing as s/he pleases.

    Certainly, you must respect that. This village spent over $200k to enact neighborhood plans that involved considerable volunteer time to develop.

    You can still live in Caledonia with your hens - just not in a residential area. But, from what I hear, you are reticent to move.

    Well, your elected leaders have spoken. Either you or your hens have to go. Maybe, in the future, you would consider relocating to a community that has already enacted your livestock ordinance so that your hens will be welcomed with open arms.

    Good luck with selling your home.

  3. Anon 10:06
    I hope your not an elected official.
    You come off sounding like a real cocky douche bag.

  4. Mr. Flynn - to continue on anon's post - actually the Village spent closer to $400,000 to enact neighborhood planning zoning - they did not at that time want, nor do they want now, chickens in residential areas!

    As well, I attended that meeting last night and I witnessed citizens in just about every age group opposing your proposal.

    I was also present during your discussion with Trustee Wanggaard about wind power and can't help but wonder if you have selective hearing? I WAS THE ONE that told you it was UNLIKELY (not impossible) to fly here and I further explained that was based on the reluctance of residents and village committees to approve even simple economic developments such as a coffee shop or bakery. We in Caledonia could have coined the NIMBY phrase.

    I also recall you questioning Trustee Wanggaard about a possible run for office for yourself - he was more than willing to share information and encourage you. However, after what I've witnessed, both last night and in this letter, you certainly won't have my vote.

  5. Anon - I simply reported my observation - I do respect the decision made by our board. You are entitled to you own opinions as well. Please note there will be minutes from this meeting; you will see after reading it that there were just as many people in the audience that voiced support for the proposal as were against it, but the complainers were much louder. Keep in mind I used the word "MAJORITY" I did not say "ALL" . You also were not involved in my conversation with Wanggard for the extra 30 - 45 minutes or so after you left. How could you possibly know what was said? I respect Wanggard's decision and his commitment to do what he believes is right for Caledonia. He is an asset to this community. We just disagree on this one issue, however we did agree on many others that you did not participate in. I don't hold any grudges, I'm disappointed and I think somethings were said to the Bernhardts that were out of line, but I can't control what others say.

    I stand by my comments above. I do not intend to push this any further.

    How about leaving your name here so people can see how closed minded you are?

  6. sales - who the heck is sales?

    As you'll recall, I was not close-minded! My objection (suggestion)from day one, at the very first meeting was the problem of predators being attracted to these chickens and I suggested a building standard for the coops. Why would I be suggesting a building standard if I was completely close-minded? You may want to hide your head in the sand, but predators will become more prevalent in residential areas when live game is introduced.

    You were also very disingenuous with some of the information you presented. Many of the communities have much much stricter ordinances than what you proposed. You decided to fashion yours after Madison's which is one of most lenient of any I've seen.

    And have you forgotten - I gave you the information you needed that could probably get this done - apparently you chose to ignore it. Close-minded? Really.

  7. Chicken talk from an alderman in Monona, WI


  8. Anon - You should have read our final proposal - it had preventative measures in there for predators and addressed all the concerns. We did take your advice and the final proposal was very strict. The final mirrored South Portland, ME which we indicated in our proposal and copies were distributed last night.

    Again, We lost the battle, I sent "thank you's" to all the board members and I would like to move on.

    I respect the villages ordinances, but please respect our right to try and change them for what we felt was a noble cause. In the end the board makes the final decision, and they did.

  9. Tuesday, February 10, 2009
    Chicken Talk from Alder Chad Speight
    Labels: Chickens, Environment, Monona
    Alder Speight dropped this over the transom. The bold emphasis is mine.

    To the Citizens of Monona,

    I have to confess that urban chickens are new to me. My first reaction to the topic a few years ago was skepticism. I had visions of barns, haystacks, mud; and I envisioned lots of noise, clutter, and mess. I share this story, because I have since learned that my preconceptions were wrong. The fact is that urban chickens, regulated in a reasonable manner, create a healthy, diverse, and more self-sufficient community. I understand why some citizens are hesitant, but I am confident that urban chickens are a good fit in Monona, for many reasons.

    Small-scale urban agriculture is good for our ecosystem. Vegetable scraps get composted, to make soil for gardens; which grow vegetables to feed our families, which get composted again. This cycle of life is resourceful and sustainable. We all know the value of a vegetable garden, and having a few chickens is similar to growing lettuce- you have to tend it; keep predators away, and feed the soil with water and nutrients. Those chickens also require water, food, a good place to live and grow, and protection. The reward is a harvest of eggs, without any trips to the grocery store.

    The chicken coop is hard to find in an urban landscape. I have visited a few now, and I am always looking around the coop to try to find the coop. (That’s the coop?) Thanks to our winter climate, a chicken coop needs to be contained and heated, which seems to lead most chicken farmers to build a shed (or just remodel space in an existing outbuilding) to create a comfortable spot for the chickens to live. I have been amazed by the lack of odor, and the simple friendliness of the chickens. No different than a dog house, etc; except that chickens have to be protected from predators, and this also contributes to their low profile. If the new chicken farmer lets the birds roam, then our healthy hawk population will be even happier. So the feeding also happens in relative safety, and these creatures do not let seed go to waste. They will eat any mice that roam in as well, just in case you were worried about that.

    The manure from of few chickens is not a health hazard. In fact, a single dog weighing 50 pounds produces more waste with higher phosphorous content than the 5 chickens allowed in this ordinance. Unlike dog waste, which cannot be safely composted; chicken waste can be composted and used back in the garden, to enrich the soil. Whereas the large chicken farm (or any large animal operation) creates a potential hazard due to the volume of waste, the small urban enterprise is more balanced, and by design, much less hazardous. No berms are required. Again, dog waste is more hazardous, and must be disposed of off premises.

    We get what we pay for with food, just like anything else. Large-scale “factory” farming seems efficient and cheap, but there are environmental costs that are not paid for at the grocery store. The animals on large farms are often treated less humanely, are fed less balanced diets, and produce less nutritious foods. We are healthier if we consume healthier foods. Keeping chickens is not a cheap proposition (come to think of it, neither is gardening or owning a pet); but the payback is real; and worthy of our support for those who are willing.

    Chickens become part of the family, like any other pet, which leads most caretakers to treat their animals well. Caring for other things is rewarding, since most animals return the love. My dog is a great companion, and when I decided to run for council, I knew that I already had a friend that would stick with me, which is true! (So what if only Ginger loves me :-) Of course, people who do not want a dog, a cat, or a chicken, are free to live without these animals. But chickens are similar to dogs or cats in many ways. They require attention every day; and we expect owners to take good care of these animals, as required by local ordinances.

    Of course, animals can cause a nuisance and harm others. Our laws and regulations exist to address this issue. We do not ban dogs because they can bark or even bite; nor do we ban cats even though they can kill songbirds. Chickens, in small numbers, just do not attract much attention. Right now, in Monona, at least 2 chicken coops exist, perhaps as many as 4, yet no one has ever complained. If a chicken owner did not tend his or her flock, then our current laws would allow the city to take action. The proposed ordinance clarifies these rights, responsibilities, and limitations.

    We all eat, and yet I know that I purchase most of my food at the market. I enjoy growing herbs and tomatoes, and occasional vegetables. I have learned a lot about the value of tending the garden over the years; and I have enjoyed seeing my children learn from the limited gardening that we do. Certainly, raising chickens serves as a valuable lesson to families, friends, and neighbors, and reconnects us to the food chain, and to the circle of life. Our disconnect from these interconnections has enabled us to pollute our water, air, and soil. When we produce some of our own food, we reduce our dependence on practices that have polluted our environment in recent decades.

    Finally, I am reminded of one of my favorite Woody Allen jokes. “I had an uncle who thought he was a chicken. I asked my aunt, ‘Why don’t you turn him in?’ , and she responded, ‘I would, but I need the eggs.’” At first glance, raising chickens in the city might seem crazy, but it isn’t, and in these uncertain times, we definitely need the eggs. Please join me in trusting and respecting the good judgment of the citizens of Monona, by allowing us to raise a few chickens, if we so choose.


    Chad T Speight, CR, Monona Alderperson

  10. Well CLUCK you who are so opposed so sustainable living. That is the small mindness of Caledonia.

  11. My feathers are ruffled too! This is ridiculous. The old guard on the board shows how ignorant they are.

    Clean chicken coops and great fresh eggs...it's happening folks, all over the USA, so get used to it and vote the old stodgy fogies off the board next time. A leader does not make comments like those of Coutts! Closed-minded and foolish!!

    And, what? No solar panel talk? Oh my...how 1940s

  12. Caledonia - It's time to get rid of the "Old Coutts" and elect a board who believes in sustainability. If your board will not allow individuals to be self-sustaianble, how do you expect your village leaders to do the same? Sustainability is a mind set, and there are only two people on your village board that have it (Morgan & McCalvy). We are all struggling to find ways to reduce our individual economics, yet Caledonia is finding ways to increase them. Gone are the days of huge commercial development, what Caledonia needs to do is focus on becoming self sustainable... That means, Wind Power, Solar Power... Our own School District and yes... Backyard chickens included.

    The world has changed and if your leaders can't see that, then we need to vote them out. It's time to get rid of the "old Coutts" ... and Wanggard too.

  13. Regarding the comment:
    Caledonia - It's time to get rid of the "Old Coutts" and elect a board who believes in sustainability. If your board will not allow individuals to be self-sustaianble, how do you expect your village leaders to do the same? Sustainability is a mind set, and there are only two people on your village board that have it (Morgan & McCalvy). We are all struggling to find ways to reduce our individual economics, yet Caledonia is finding ways to increase them. Gone are the days of huge commercial development, what Caledonia needs to do is focus on becoming self sustainable... That means, Wind Power, Solar Power... Our own School District and yes... Backyard chickens included.

    Morgan and McCalvy have been VERY vocal in their oppostion of the idea of a Caledonia School district.

    The other topics that concern these 2 trustees all revolve around keeping Caledonia "green".

    They fight every proposed business development unless it somehow benefits the Caledonia Conservancy.

  14. I think Switzerland is right. We need to get rid of a few of the "older" representatives on the Board.At least the ones that are stuck in a time warp.

    I think we need to focus on creating a new school district that will better educate our children.
    Making Caledonia a place where businesses want to come in here & help support our tax base.