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.