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A year-long effort spearheaded by both avian advocates and City Staff emerged from Committee Monday night, April 1, that would make requisite a license and regular inspection to erect and maintain a backyard birdfeeder and now heads to the full Council.

If passed, the legislation is expected to go into effect as soon as the City can print officially sanctioned licenses and hire enough staff to efficiently inspect all new and existing birdfeeders within the City limits.

The measure contemplates four different classifications of feeders: based upon height above the ground; whether a feeder is affixed to a natural structure, such as a tree; or to an unnatural structure, such as a pole; and seed capacity. The highest-priced license – for a high-capacity, pole-resting feeder over 7 feet off the ground – would cost its owner $50 per year in license fees. That number could rise should an inspector find defects, such as inadequate squirrel protection.

A tree-hanging, modest-capacity feeder within 4 feet of ground level will cost but $20 per year. City revenue collector Grafton Grant called the ordinance “long overdue.”

“This City is lousy with unregulated, inefficient, inappropriate, and when it comes right down to it, downright dangerous birdfeeders,” he said. “It is a problem in every ward, from the first up to the sixth.”

At citizen comment, some said the proposal did not go far enough. “There is nothing – nothing! – in this law about the quality of seed in these feeders,” said Olivia Mount Clare. “The closest we get is a vague, very general requirement that feed be – what is the word? –  ‘Appropriate.’ Will inspectors use that language to fine those using poor-quality feed? I certainly hope so!”

The issue promised to generate plenty of controversy at Council. The feed-quality issue alone could generate significant debate.

Others argued that the City has no business dictating birdfeeder specifications to residents. “I love our fine-feathered friends as much as the next guy,” said local curmudgeon June Bettie, “but the City should leave the people alone.”

City tax czar Pearl Le Blanc said she expected the new law to add nearly $1 million a year to City coffers. “It’s not just the licenses,” she said. “Inspection fines will add more and more as we train up staff.”

Specifications for approved birdfeeders will be posted on the City’s website shortly after the law goes into effect, said Mr. Grant. A contest for generating the design of official feeder licenses will be initiated at District 65 schools, he added.