Seeking to keep chickens on residential property in Guilderland will typically be much less of a public appeal — at least until any changes are made to the town code.
The Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals granted two requests for interruptions on keeping six laying hens Wednesday, July 2, after determining past decisions on similar requests have set a precedent allowing such usage. Board members had claimed prior decisions did not set precedents and each case would be evaluated individually. Only a building permit for the required coop is needed.
Laura and Dan Spanbauer, of Morgan Court, and Lisa Alonzi, of New Williamsburg Drive, were requesting to keep up to six chickens outdoors on their property. Both live within a single-family zone.
“Residents are submitting plans and supporting narratives that are consistent with the conditions imposed in those interpretations,” said Peter Barber, chairman of the zoning board. “Now, everybody is doing the same thing.”
The board most recently denied Dale Owen’s request to keep chickens at his Mohawk Drive home, but approved two prior requests. Owen could now simply get a permit for the coop, which he already had submitted a detailed description on in his request.
Janet Thayer, attorney for the ZBA, said the state Court of Appeals determined zoning boards must adhere to its prior interpretations unless there is a “substantial difference” for ruling differently.
The zoning administrator is charged with issuing building permits for chicken coops in single-family residential districts, if conditions the board imposed are met. Some of the conditions are no more than six chickens, no roosters, keeping chickens in an enclosure at all times and having no adverse impact on neighbors.
“Somebody could challenge what we did tonight legally,” said Barber.
Town Board members, though, could clear up the fowl issue through town code revisions, which would override the zoning board’s interpretation of the code.
Town Supervisor Ken Runion said board members recently received the Zoning Review Committee’s proposed revisions, which includes allowing up to six hens within residential districts if several conditions are met. A fee would likely be included similar to dogs.
Runion projected the Town Board would take up proposed town code revisions in September. The process would probably take a few months before any changes were adopted.
“Normally, we have the board go through it and review it, and if they have anything they would like to change or modify, that would be discussed before we have the public hearing,” said Runion.
Runion received one email regarding the ZBA’s decision to broadly allow chickens on residential properties, but he assumes more people share their opinion. He said he does not have an opinion on the proposal yet.
“I would like to hear from more of the general public as well, and I know the board members would like to,” said Runion. “We looked at it as a board several years ago and there weren’t any board members that made any motion to allow chickens, but it was a different board at that time.”