Bad blood at Flagstaff City Hall traced to new student urban farming initiative

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A test flock of chickens roosts on the balconies of The Hub student housing complex as construction on the building continues. Jake Bacon, Arizona Sun.

City Manager Barbed Goodfellow requisitioned eggs, glow lamps and straw-filled hatching bins, then ordered all staff to make room in their filing cabinets and desk drawers for 21 days until Easter, the day the chicks were expected to emerge.

By Daily Sun Staff
Arizona Daily Sun
April 1, 2018

Municipal sources have shed new light on the controversy that has roiled Flagstaff City Hall in recent weeks.

Bad blood between the City Council and staff is being traced to a new sustainability program combining urban farming and student responsibility that has moved – literally – inside City Hall.

Sustainability manager P.G. Woodshed hatched the plan with Development Director Dan “Guy” Fawkes after learning of negative community feedback to massive student housing projects looming over Flagstaff neighborhoods.

“What if we attached a conditional use permit to each student apartment that required a green commitment?” Woodshed recalled asking Fawkes.

Instead of a bike on each balcony, she said, how about a raised-bed garden?

The pair took their plan to the council in executive session, where Councilman Charlie Odorguard pointed out that gardens don’t do well in winter in Flagstaff, even on west-facing balconies. Instead, Councilwoman Eva Pulletzova suggested raising “fresh air” chickens, saying it would support local food production while also promoting a greater sense of responsibility among students.

City Manager Josh Coping immediately brought up concerns with the idea.

“Where do you plan to incubate the eggs while the students are on Spring Break?” he asked, according to notes reviewed by the Daily Sun.

Councilmember C. Yalater Barrister countered that City Hall had rooms to spare, including Coping’s spacious corner office, and the council endorsed the plan unanimously.

His objections overruled, Coping submitted his resignation letter the next morning, alleging “unprofessional” treatment but declining to give specifics.

‘COME PICK UP A CHICK AT CITY HALL’

That left implementation of the plan to interim City Manager Barbed Goodfellow. She requisitioned eggs, glow lamps and straw-filled hatching bins, then ordered all staff to make room in their filing cabinets and desk drawers for 21 days until Easter, the day the chicks were expected to emerge.

“We even have a slogan for all those frat boys the day after Easter,” said Woodshed. “Come pick up a chick at City Hall.”

When Fawkes asked the council how it wanted to enforce the balcony chicken requirement, Councilmember Scott Overeasy said placing timers on student showers would do the trick.

“No chickens, no long showers,” he said.

City Vitality Director Heidi Hammer pointed out that four stories worth of balcony chickens might create a mess on the sidewalks below, and she proposed a new “Fresh Air” organic waste composting program, to be run at the Wildcat Treatment Plant.

“The hikers at Picture Canyon won’t smell anything much different,” she noted.

Woodshed said excess eggs would go to the free breakfast programs in the schools and the fryers to the family food center. If too many chickens exceed balcony capacity, the outdoor pool at the Hub could be drained, filled with soil and converted to an escape-proof barnyard.

EAT MORE FISH

The council has set a special post-Easter meeting to deal with community concerns after receiving a petition from a new advocacy group, Eat More Fish, asserting poultry rights.

“Whether you’re cooped up in a shed or on a tiny balcony, it’s still industrial farming,” wrote a member, Dixie Chick, who moonlights as city spokesperson Jessica Drummstick. She called for larger, covered porches, conversion of city pocket parks to free-range barnyards and, ultimately, a city education campaign to wean local schoolchildren off chicken tenders and nuggets in their lunchboxes.

That was just what Walter Coinfield, one of the principals at Velvet Partners, said he had in mind all alolng. The developer of the Millstone apartment complex said even though the city’s Urban Farming Commission exempted Millstone from including chicken coops on the balconies, Velvet would have tenants raise chickens in the civic spaces of the building.

“We heard loud and clear from Councilman (Jim) McClucky, who has a background in urban farming, that our balconies and common areas would be a sustainable place for chickens,” Coinfield said.

But frat boys will not be the only ones picking up chicks at Millstone. Coinfield said the first-floor residents, all senior citizens, will work off their rent payments by tending to the birds, thus incentivizing housing for all ages and income levels.

AFFORDABLE ANIMAL HOUSING

Coinfield also took the requirement one step further, saying that Velvet’s Woody Mountain housing development, Pie in Sky, would provide affordable housing to chickens and other farm animals, including pigs and sheep, that did not have homes.

“Affordable housing is a pressing issue in Flagstaff, not just for people but for animals, too,” he said.

That sealed the Millstone rezoning deal for Mayor Choral N. Evitable.

“Who needs a chicken in every pot when we’ve got three on every balcony,” she crowed.

When asked how the council planned to deal with ruffled feathers among City Hall staff so close to Easter, the mayor was dismissive.

“If they can’t make it to April 1, the yolk’s on them,” she said.

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