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Nisky chicks appeal denied by county court

Petition supporting micro-farming presented to Town Board

The Helm's battle to have chickens on their property hasn't lost any pluck.

Judge Karen Drago denied John Helm's appeal against Town Justice Stephen Swinton Jr. early January decision that Helm was violating sections 220-4 and 220-10D of Niskayuna's town code by keeping chicken on his property. Drago's decision was filed in the Schenectady County Clerk's Office on June 22 and the decision was dated June 14. Helm will return to court for resentencing in the near future.

They had no reason, and they just keep fishing. That is not justice that is witch hunting," said Brenda Helm. "The whole time we were asking the town to tell us where we were in violation."

Since the Helms live on an R-3 High-Density Residential District, a farm is not allowed in the town code and would require a special use permit. John Helm previously said the family tried to work with the town to figure out a solution, but he said the town was uncooperative and didn't help them understand what solutions or avenues were available to them.

To appeal for having chickens on their property, they would have had to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals, but in Judge Swinton's decision, he denied them the right to go before the board since they chose to take it to court.

Section 220-4 of Niskayuna's Town Code, which Helm was found to be in violation of, defines farm as "any lot containing at least one acre which is used for gain in the production or raising of agricultural products, livestock, poultry and dairy products. It includes necessary farm structures within the prescribed limits and the storage of equipment used."

A new point brought up in Judge Drago's decision is the definition of a pet and farm in the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law. A pet is defined as "any dog or cat, and shall also mean any other domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household of the owner or person who cares for such other domesticated animal." It goes on to state a pet cannot be a "farm animal" as the law defines.

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