Mayor Frazier, Matt Strand talk over controversy of retail poultry sales in commercial district

Mayor Brent Frazier, left, and Strand Hardware man, Matt Strand, lifted coffee cups April 6–in a show of Pelican Rapids unity and spirit, following several days of intense Facebook and media scrutiny. The store was, in effect, shut down from selling live chicks because of an ordinance restricting poultry and farm animals in town–causing a swirling controversy from main street to cyberspace.

The two central figures in the great Pelican Rapids chick controversy of April 2018 sipped coffee together April 6; basically concluding that the dispute was not personal, and there were no hard feelings.

Pelican hardware man Matt Strand and Mayor Brent Frazier “toasted” one another with cups of coffee at the Muddy Moose. The two were central figures in an issue that exploded on social media, and was reported by regional television and print media.
At issue: The city’s ordinance that restricts poultry and farm animals in city limits. The ordinance, in effect, shut down Strand Hardware from selling chicks out of the store in Pelican’s business district.
“We have no personal issues…Otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here talking,” said Matt Strand. “But, I probably put my point across more than I needed to,” said Strand. “I didn’t know how much this would escalate. For that, I apologize.”
“Apology accepted,” said Mayor Brent Frazier. The mayor and the city were characterized as heavy-handed, overly restrictive and anti-business in Facebook posts that were seen, shared and comment upon by thousands.
However, Strand said he, “disagrees with how it was handled.” The violation news came from the police chief–rather than receiving a diplomatic phone call or visit from the mayor.
The two talked about city affairs, economic development and exchanged stories about their military service–Frazier as an Army Reservist and Strand as National Guardsman.
“Truth is, if selling chicks is our biggest problem, life is pretty good,” said Strand, but added that he would like to have “rational” discussions on how to move the community forward.
While the pair “agreed to disagree” politely, the ordinance restricting poultry remains on the books.
Discussion of the ordinance was scheduled for the council meeting April 10, after this newspaper edition went to press.The debate could continue, as Strand, and others, may seek revisions that would not only allow the retail sale of chicks–but also keeping backyard, egg-laying hens with-in city limits.

“I’d like to see this turn into a collective dialogue on what we should have in town,” said Strand. “What is the common sense way forward.”

The issue over chick sales prompted many comments, around town and around social media–a majority of them generally critical of the city for the ordinance.

“I think kids and families raising chickens together as a healthy food project is five times better than going to the convenience store, filling up your Slurpie and buying candy,” said Scott Richardson, a Pelican businessman, Rapids Brake and Alignment. “It’s much more healthy to go to your backyard and collect eggs.”

On Tuesday, April 3, she painted “Save the Chicks” on her window–supporting the sale of live poultry at the neighboring Strand Hardware store, which fell victim to a Pelican city ordinance restricting “farm animals” in city limits. The issue created a firestorm on Facebook social media and in the regional media. After negative posts about the community and Mayor Brent Frazier, she took a peacekeeping posture two days later, changing the text to “Save the Mayor…”

Another business owner, Amanda Tweeton, Envy Salon, just down the block from Strand Hardware, said it has been an important lesson for her and the community. Initially, she was supportive of Strand–and posted statements on Facebook. Somewhat tongue in cheek, she also painted her storefront window with a message “Save the Chicks.”

However, she was alarmed at how quickly the dialogue on Facebook turned “blew up” and turned ugly. Soon, there were negative statements attacking the city; personal assaults on the mayor; and exaggerated claims that Pelican is a “dying, anti-business town.”

The text in the storefront window of Amanda Tweeton’s Envy hair salon in downtown Pelican Rapids reads “Save the Mayor…Be Nice.”

The personal comments about Mayor Frazier especially bothered her. Within two days, she changed the text on her salon window –stating “Save the Mayor…Be Nice.”

“This has been a learning experience for all of us–at the expense of the mayor,” said Amanda. “Unfortunately,” she added, “people tend to hide behind their computer screens and their cellphones…They are comfortable making accusations when their hiding behind a screen. If they have an opinion, they should tell them in person.”

Now, she is striving to act as a “peacekeeper,” and has brought a calming effect to the ongoing debate.

“We want new ideas for the community, and I thought selling the chicks was a great thing. We have some struggles, like most small towns, but we need to be open to new things,” said Tweeton.

Livestock, poultry restrictions in Pelican city ordinances date to 1990s; references to poultry, chickens in Pelican Press date back a century

A review of the Pelican Rapids city council and planning commission minutes indicates that restrictions on livestock, including poultry, have been on the books since at least the early 1990s.

The topic surfaced again in 2013, when the city council reaffirmed that “chickens and other fowl be added to the list of animals not permitted in city limits.”

The 2013 poultry discussion evidently stemmed, at least in part, from neighborhood complaints over backyard chickens and roosters crowing in the early morning.

The Pelican Rapids Press reported in October of 2013: “Crowing roosters at daybreak may be a charming, nostalgic morning overture in the rural countryside–but not necessarily when you’re a resident in a developed residential area.” The council added language that “prohibited chickens, ducks, geese and other fowl in city limits…by unanimous vote.”

Two of the five current council members were not on the council in 2013, Steve Strand and CJ Holl; nor was Mayor Brent Frazier.

The present ordinance allows “transit” of “farm animals” in and through town. Consequently, the shipping of chicks via the Pelican Rapids Post Office is not a violation.

The ordinance does not contain language specifically restricting the “sale” of poultry and farm animals-–but does specify that it is unlawful to “keep or harbor” farm animals, with exceptions that include transit; animals as part of a show; used in a parade; or are receiving treatment at a
veterinary clinic.

Looking back into the files of the Pelican Rapids Press, contributing writer Brenda Brand found a few references to poultry, spanning 100 years.

In 1918, the newspaper published an article stating that “backyard flocks should not be large, not more than eight to 15 hens…Also, do not allow your chicks to bother your neighbor.”

In 1943, the Pelican Rapids Creamery hatchery was “doing a thriving business…So far this spring, 89,000 chicks have been distributed among the farmers, this amount being 25,000 more than were distributed last year.”

In 1968, a for sale advertisement in the Press stated “Old hens done laying. Call evenings only.”

In 1993, customers were reminded to pick up their chickens at Mildred Peterson’s.

Other Pelican “oldtimers” recall loading up crates of poultry on rail cars at the brick warehouse, north of the present Farmers Elevator.