Uncertainty still looms over a Guilderland man’s proposal to keep chickens behind his house, but it’s clear opinions on both sides haven’t swayed.
The Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday, April 16, continued the public hearing on Dale Owen’s request to keep up to 10 laying hens outside his family’s home at 140 Mohawk Drive. Owen provided the board with the requested construction plans and answers to questions it had.
Some new residents, who couldn’t attend the March 5 meeting, spoke out against the proposal. Supporters continued attempting to dispel fears of those opposed.
“I have never seen such detailed construction plans for a building in my life,” said Board member Thomas Remmert, who is acting as chairman for the application. “I could probably build one myself following those plans, so we do appreciate (you) providing that.”
Zoning board Chairman Peter Barber previously recused himself from discussions and casting a vote on the application because he lives within Owen’s neighborhood.
Owen, who has four children, previously said his family grows “a substantial amount” of their vegetables and most of his family is vegetarian. He also said they go through “a ton” of eggs and views keeping chickens as an opportunity to teach his children responsibility.
Owen said he has not “done anything” toward building the coop, which is unlike prior chicken requests. Both times, the residents requesting to keep chickens already had the fowl on their property.
Zoning board members contend the town code does not explicitly allow or disallow the keeping of chickens, so the members review requests on a case-by-case basis. Remmert stressed previous decisions did not set a precedent, and the board stated such when the approvals were given.
Unlike prior requests, Owens neighbors appear mostly opposed to the chickens joining the neighborhood.
Mary Toscano, of 120 Mohawk Drive, said when she was a child in a central Massachusetts city, she would visit her aunt’s farm where there was “a flock of chicken” and two horses. Toscano said she clearly remembered the “odor of urine and feces” emanating from the chicken coop.
“These odors cannot be disguised … and when the wind blows in the right direction, they are unmistakable,” Toscano said.
She further contended the chickens would bring predators to the area, which other residents have also claimed.
Owen is planning to make his chicken coop and adjoining run as predator proof as possible. He said he would use wield wire mesh around the perimeter of the coop and bury it one-foot in the ground, with the buried fence forming an “L” shape.
Rosemary Centi, former town clerk of Guilderland, who does not live in the neighborhood, expressed opposition to Owen’s request. She contended there is “nothing to interpret.”
“Raising of poultry as it stands is a permitted use only in an agricultural zone,” Centi said. “It is not a permitted use in a residential zone. Therefore, those seeking to raise chickens in a residential zone are seeking a new zoning law, and it is the prerogative of the Town Board and Town Board only.”
Remmert said the request for interpretation on chickens for an individual basis is within the board’s purview and duties because of the unclear town code wording.
Sally Cummings, who doesn’t live near Owen, was baffled there was a debate over keeping chickens. She said as long as chickens are properly cared for, there is no odor. Another resident also contended farms sometimes don’t regularly clean chicken coops.
“I grew up in England, and my very most favorite thing to do was go to my cousin’s because they had chickens. This was in London, and there were no problems with it,” Cummings said. “I just can’t believe that people would have any objections.”
The zoning board closed the hearing and the four members are scheduled to make a ruling on Owen’s request at its Wednesday, May 21, meeting at 7:30 p.m.
The town’s Zoning Review Committee is in the process of rewriting the town code and one possible revision would allow chickens in residential zoning. The Town Board would approve any changes to the code based on recommendations from the committee.