Archive for Thursday, May 3, 2012

Town Talk: City says chick sale at Orscheln afoul of code; a twist on sidewalk dining; an iconic trash Dumpster; weekly land transfers and an election filing

May 3, 2012


News and notes from around town:

• Let no one ever say that Lawrence doesn’t love its chickens.

If you remember a couple months ago, Lawrence gained widespread publicity when a local artist wanted to conduct a public slaughtering of chickens as part of an art exhibition. The city attorney’s office, however, stepped in and cited a city law that prohibited the slaughtering. Fans of chickens (not necessarily fans of fried chicken) rejoiced.

Now, chicken fans have another victory to crow about. I recently got confirmation that Orscheln Farm and Home ended its annual Chick Days Sale after city officials notified the store that it wasn’t meeting the city’s codes for housing chickens.

If you are not familiar with Chick Days … well, then you must still be falling for that scam of buying your eggs at the grocery store. Chick Days is a longtime event — I’m confident it has been around more than a decade — where Orscheln sells baby chickens (I think ducks, too) to area farmers and other poultry producers. The chicks are housed inside coops inside the store. The sale only features chicks. Nothing close to a full-grown chicken is sold.

But perhaps you remember several years ago the city passed a set of regulations governing how chickens must be housed in the city. The regulations came about after several folks expressed interest in raising chickens in their backyards.

I’m assuming it’s those regulations that Orscheln ran afoul of. Assistant City Attorney Chad Sublet and I have been playing phone tag on the subject for the last couple of days, so I haven’t had a chance to ask him specifics about what issues the city found at Orscheln. But Sublet in a voice mail did confirm the city notified the store it was in violation of the city’s codes.

The city’s code does require that a coop have at least 10 square feet per chicken or duck, if the birds do not have an outdoor run. I’ve been to Orscheln several times (last purchase rubber boots and a pig whip. And no, I don’t own a pig.) I would estimate there are at least a couple hundred chicks in the several coops that are inside the store. In other words, Orscheln would need to add on another wing (in case you’re counting I’ve gotten crow, afoul and wing into this article so far) if it wanted to meet the city’s square footage requirement.

The ordinance also says that no more than 20 chickens or ducks shall be kept on any lot within the city limits. As mentioned before, the ordinance was crafted with the practice of raising backyard chickens in residential areas in mind. I covered the issue, and don’t ever recall any discussion about how the ordinance should apply to a commercial activity like the one Orscheln undertakes. The Chick Days Sale was a common practice at the time the ordinance was passed. The ordinance also doesn’t make any distinction between chicks and full-grown chickens, even though they differ in size significantly.

Jamie Knabe, an assistant manager at Orscheln, said the store shut down its Chick Days Sale in mid-April, at least a half-month earlier than it normally would have.

“It has been quite a loss in revenue and it has been quite a loss for our customers too,” Knabe said.

Knabe said Orscheln’s corporate attorneys were reviewing the matter.

• If you want to support a chicken, go eat a hamburger. There’s a little bit of news about one of downtown’s Lawrence’s popular burger joints. The Burger Stand, 803 Mass., is adding sidewalk dining to its operations.

But it is doing it in a bit of a different way. It is adding the seating area to it rear sidewalk. The businesses along the west side of the 800 block of Massachusetts Street don’t really have an alley running behind them. A public parking lot took the alley away, and instead there is a pedestrian walkway — a covered one in many cases — that runs along the backside of the buildings.

The seating area for the Burger Stand will be underneath that covered walkway. So soon, you can have a burger in the rain. My understanding is the seating area also will extend over to next door-neighbor Esquina, which is owned by the same group.

City commissioners approved the new concept without any objection at last Tuesday’s meeting.

• While we are speaking of things that are behind downtown businesses, let’s talk about the Dumpster behind the Social Service League Thrift Store, 905 R.I. The Dumpster came up at Monday’s meeting of the city’s Historic Resources Commission.

Longtime East Lawrence artist and activist K.T. Walsh expressed concern that developers of a proposed hotel/retail building at Ninth and New Hampshire may not understand the importance of the Dumpster that is directly behind the building’s proposed site.

The Dumpster is often full of goodies that the Social Service League Thrift Store can’t use in its store for one reason or another. That apparently attracts quite a crowd.

“The Social Service League Dumpster is a cultural icon,” Walsh told the commission. “I am not exaggerating. People shop there 24/7. People take their kids there. People take their dates there.”

(Wow, you are quite a Casanova if you can pull that off. I once tried to take my wife to a meager three-star restaurant, and I ended up in the Dumpster.)

Walsh told historic resources commissioners she wanted some type of assurances that the Dumpster wouldn’t have to be removed or that the practice of people coming to the site to remove items from it wouldn’t be curtailed.

“It has been the best and busiest Dumpster in Lawrence for a long time,” Walsh said.

• Another week, another week’s worth of property transfers as recorded by the Douglas County Register of Deeds office.

I mention the Douglas County Register of Deeds office every week in this column, but do you know who holds the position of Douglas County register of deeds? Points to you if you answered Kay Pesnell.

I received an announcement this morning from Pesnell, a Douglas County Democrat, that she will file for re-election this afternoon. Pesnell will be seeking her third full-term as register of deeds. She’s worked in the office since 1990.

Pesnell’s position is just one of a whole host of county positions that will be up for election in November. The sheriff, the district attorney, the treasurer, the county clerk and County Commissioners Jim Flory and Nancy Thellman all have positions expiring in 2012. The filing deadline for all the seats is June 1. If needed, a primary election will take place Aug. 7. The general election will take place Nov. 6.

Anyway, click here for this week’s list of property sales and transfers in Douglas County.

• Town Talk won’t appear tomorrow. I’ll be at the Douglas County Fairgrounds parking cars as part of the annual auto swap meet that will take place through this weekend. No, I don’t generally moonlight as a parking attendant, but my son is in a local 4-H club that parks cars there for a fundraiser. By the way, my son in 4-H owns … a pig. I knew I had some of you worried.


avoice 5 years, 10 months ago

How about not using an ordinance created to police residential pets to encompass retail sales of small animals? How does Orscheln's chick sale differ from Pet World or Petco housing multiple small animals in pens? Or is it just chickens that incur these requirements?

somedude20 5 years, 10 months ago

"The seating area for the Burger Stand will be underneath that covered walkway. So soon, you can have a burger in the rain. My understanding is the seating area also will extend over to next door-neighbor Esquina, which is owned by the same group."

So the public walkway that is used when parking in that lot, that is covered to protect people from the elements and was paid for with tax dollars is now going to be taken up by a private business? Sweet!

bornherelongago 5 years, 10 months ago

We should also duly note that this area is very close to a very stinky outdoor uncovered garbage area. Good luck attracting customers when there is a southwesterly breeze. But I suppose if you are smoking, you won't smell it!

Keith 5 years, 10 months ago

Plus the sidewalk is slick from the kitchen exhaust fans.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 10 months ago

I was thinking the same thing. That back walkway smells absolutely rancid.

Take_a_letter_Maria 5 years, 10 months ago

I wonder who the chicken is that called fowl on Orscheln's.

patkindle 5 years, 10 months ago

The city of Lawrence usually only respond to complaints some doo gooder that has issues must have complained about chick days

John Hamm 5 years, 10 months ago

+1 What's good for the "Chicks" is good for the "Pandler."

Keith 5 years, 10 months ago

Is Tractor Supply in the city limits? I agree this is a stupid implementation of the ordinance which was written with adult birds in mind.

cowboy 5 years, 10 months ago

Only in Lawrence.... Orscheln has a right to face the accuser , they should have told the city to shove off , or shove it and forced them to have the great swat chicken raid. They would have immediately been the laughing stock of the entire country.

A big bronx cheer for codes and the city attorney , you suck !

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

the chick thing and the "artist" with dumpster dates. I rest my case.

d_prowess 5 years, 10 months ago

The sidewalk behind the Burger Stand and Esquina is always pretty dirty and I think there is a dumpster for the other building right there that often smells. Also there isn't much of a view either. Good luck to them, but that is probably the last place I would ever sit to eat and I love the Burger Stand!

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

I really doubt this idea succeeds. It sounds pretty stupid. Dining by the dumpsters with no view? I don't think I'll be sitting out there, either.

gatekeeper 5 years, 10 months ago

That was exactly my thought. I hate walking through that area because it smells so bad.

King_Kaun 5 years, 10 months ago

I think the area is really going to be more of a smoking patio where you can take your beer with you. Right now, you have leave your drink inside and step out to smoke...I'm guessing this is the motivation behind the space rather than for "beautiful outdoor dining" etc. I have plenty of friends who choose their bars based on their smoking accommodations. Just a thought

King_Kaun 5 years, 10 months ago

Thats a weird thing to no nothing of me or my friends. Thanks for being the tool picking random fights on message boards. Every board needs them, I guess....still sad...

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

you need to learn how to spell, then find better friends.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

actually you spelled it correctly, it's just the wrong word. "No" doesn't mean the same thing as "know", FYI.

LogicMan 5 years, 10 months ago

On selling chicks:

Oh, please! Orscheln et al's sales of chicks have to be exempt. Have you forgotten your roots, Kansas?

Do Kansas's "right to farm" laws override the city's?

But if Orscheln and others aren't exempted, now I'd like to see the city's enforcers go after the U.S. Post Office. Did you know they store live chicks en route from vendors to customers in crammed-full, tiny little boxes?

LadyJ 5 years, 10 months ago

I was going to make the same comment. I've been in the post office when the chicks are there. If they aren't going to enforce it at the post office, then they shouldn't at Orscheln. Plus the chicks are only there temporarily, not being raised there.

RDE87 5 years, 10 months ago

Isn't the burger stand's back patio right by a dumpster??

pace 5 years, 10 months ago

Orscheln chicken
It is just too elitist that we are sending people to Bonner springs to buy their young chickens and ducks. It must be the, out of their mind control freaks who , when faced with enforcing the code, they choose to pop it on the business or citizens rather than first run a memo to the commissioners. They don't like to communicate, so they don't. Instead they surprise businesses, citizens, and commissioners. Corliss has not done a good job of cleaning up that department's anti public culture. A lot of old rotten apples in that basket. The lack of communication and egotistical power trips that department has been on, has been out of control for a long time. They refuse to send a letter to anyone explaining a code regulation as it applies to a property, they have a policy that only allows communication in person or by email. But they won't say it direct, they don't like saying much direct, unless they have the cat's seat. Unless they find a violation, then they can write a letter. What kind of rule is that. Some little toad in that office just thinks "Why would anyone raise their own eggs or heaven forbid, their own meat. If god had wanted them to have chickens he wouldn't have created major grocery store corporations. They don't care if their code changes affect the people living in the county. It is all about them, and the less they communicate the more power trips they can ride.

Munsoned 5 years, 10 months ago

Ten square feet per chick-- that's more space than the homeless get!

MattressMan 5 years, 10 months ago

Chick days at Orschelns has been going on a long time. I think TSC does it as well and maybe iirc the feed store on 6th may have done it in the past as well. Like someone earlier posted, how about the pet stores, do creatures other than chickens not deserve adequate space? Are there any square foot requirements for cats or dogs? Does the animal shelter conform? I'm pretty sure most of the cats in there don't have 10 sq ft to roam. Last and not least what about all the 4-H'ers, will they allow the poultry exhibit this year, if so why, afterall the fairgrounds are in the city limit.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

It just gives me such a warm good feeling in my tummy that Lawrence cares so much about the well being of chickens. What a bunch of really good people. I bet they feel really great about themselves.

cobaltblue 5 years, 10 months ago

I was wondering why all the chickens were gone at Orschlens the other day when I went out for more chicken feed. Glad I got my chicks earlier this year before the poultry police took over. Common sense has gone out the window in this town.

pace 5 years, 10 months ago

I am glad that backway can have a few table on it. The cheese shop had a couple of table back there. I am not as frightened by the proximity of a dumpster. If it is unpleasant, let the customers decide. It is stupid to suggest that people can't use the walk way if they have some seating here and there. I prefer some seating there..

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

They'd probably have you arrested for mailing a biological weapon.

pace 5 years, 10 months ago

well I would prefer to work on good law than spend on spite.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

Let's not overlook the real gem of this piece. It's not the chicken ban. Government stupidity in Larry is pretty much the standard. The real piece de resistance is the dumpster diving dates. I mean who ever heard of an objection to a new development because it was going to make dumpster diving dates more difficult? This town is just absolutely amazing in its weirdness.

pizzapete 5 years, 10 months ago

If we really want to bring more people downtown, we just need to add more dumpsters. The hotel/deli/restuarant/night club/grocery store/higrise apartment alone would probably add an additional 5 or 6 dumpsters to this site. More apartments mean more trash for everyone. Who said Compton wasn't bringing better jobs and improving the quality of living in Lawrence?

tomatogrower 5 years, 10 months ago

Oh good grief. These are chicks. They need to be together for warmth. They will be sold soon anyway. Are you going to have the pet store put all their finches in separate cages?

patkindle 5 years, 10 months ago

lawrence desperatly needs more rich tax paying citizens not many left to support the layabouts

werekoala 5 years, 10 months ago

City hall over-reacted on the artist thing. They didn't like the idea, so they scrambled through the codes to find something to stop it with, pulled the Backyard Chicken ordinance out of their behinds, and called it good. Then someone (woukdnt be surprised if it was someone with an axe to grind about the treatment of the artist) called them put on it, and before you can say "unintended consequences" they either have to be blatantly hypocritical (maybe even liable to the artist) or being hostile to a tax paying business. No one on Fourth Floor ever admits wrongdoing, or apologizes...

The city chose to shut down a positive, sales tax generating tradition for many area families, because it was more important to spare the lives of a few hens from some goofy "artistic statement" that no one would have remembered a year later. Well done, gentlemen, well done indeed.

pace 5 years, 10 months ago

You can't pick up chicks in Lawrence anymore? You got to go out of town. This will close the bars.

impska 5 years, 10 months ago

I think it's sad that the city of Lawrence eliminated a local supplier of chicks, despite allowing backyard chickens. Backyard chicken-keepers don't need 25 chicks (the usual minimum order, as pointed out above) - they need to be able to walk into a farm supply store like Orscheln and pick out just a few.

Clearly the city needs to review its ordinance to distinguish between selling chicks retail and raising birds in the backyard. It's really awful that someone wasn't able to use their common sense on this one!

Terry Sexton 5 years, 10 months ago

To sell those chicks you need a farm. E-I-E-I-OH! City tool with his rule lookin' like the bigger fool. To sell those chicks you need a farm. E-I-E-I-OH!

SandCoAlmanac 5 years, 10 months ago

I hope Orscheln Farm and Home will be able to re-coop its losses next year.

Nellane Laney Croan Stussie 5 years, 10 months ago

My Grandchildren are all in school now however for years a visit to Orscheln with Grandpa during Chick Days was something we both eagerly anticipated. You will never forget the look of pure joy on the face of a two year old when they first see a a couple dozen baby ducks or chicks.

I suspect if you put 100 baby chicks/ducks in a 2 acre pen, they would still group together in a 2 square foot area.


Matthew Herbert 5 years, 10 months ago

If all five members of the Lawrence city commission kept a straight face, or at least refrained from rolling on the ground laughing while "artist and activist" KT Walsh wept over the potential loss of her dumpster, they should be applauded. I couldn't have done it.

Mark Jakubauskas 5 years, 10 months ago

I'd buy my chicks at Tractor Supply anyway. Looked at them both last year, the ones at Orschelen looked sick and dirty, the ones at TS a lot healthier. When I read the headline, I was thinking that they were shut down for poor treatment of animals, not the chicken ordinance.

Plus there seems to be, IMHO, very different management attitudes towards customers between the two places, which is why I drive past Orschelen to TS every time. TS is helpful and the store is clean and well-organized, Orschelen appears to be annoyed that customers even exist.

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