ROTTERDAM — Residents flocked to a Town Board meeting Wednesday to weigh in on a proposed ordinance that would permit backyard chickens.
Around a half-dozen residents expressed mixed opinions during a public hearing on the proposed law, which would allow Rotterdam residents in single-dwelling units with at least 9,000 square feet of property to keep up to six hens with a proper permit. The proposal mirrors legislation in place in neighboring Guilderland and Niskayuna.
Some raised concerns about odors and noise associated with the fowl, which they said would attract predators and disrupt the quality of life. Others questioned how the town would enforce the law.
“I don’t want to guess how many code enforcement people we would have to hire,” said Bob Godlewski. “We can’t even enforce our water regulations, let alone requirements for chickens. It sounds nice, but it’s impractical.”
But others in attendance said critics aren’t giving code enforcement and residents who would keep the animals enough credit, noting that many throughout town already maintain backyard chickens with no issue.
Chickens are currently prohibited in town under current law.
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The town’s Planning Commission reviewed the proposed law last month and issued a negative opinion due to sanitary concerns and issues relating to enforcement.
But Denise Lagasse, who recently received a citation from code enforcement after maintaining chickens in her yard for nine years, said she has never had an issue with rodents or odors since owning the animals, and pushed back on arguments that allowing chickens would burden the town’s codes department.
She said those opposed to the proposed ordinance are basing their opinion on misinformation, and that if approved, the law would prohibit the animals from roaming freely and require the animals to be kept in a coop that must be regularly maintained.
“Suggesting that my neighbors are not going to take care of their chickens is like saying my neighbors are not going to take care of their dogs, their cats, their bunnies, their children, their garbage and upkeep of their homes,” Lagasse said.
Others said chickens should be allowed because they ensure families have access to fresh eggs.
The proposed law would require the chickens to be kept in a “well-ventilated, predator resistant structure” that includes a minimum of 4 square feet of space per chicken and includes a chicken run with at least 10 square feet of space per animal.
The enclosures would have to be located at least 25 feet from property lines and would be prohibited from being located in the front or side yards, according to the proposal.
Roosters would be prohibited.
The proposal also includes an enforcement aspect, which would allow the town to revoke a permit if the law is not followed and would prohibit a new permit from being issued for two years at the property. Residents would be able to appeal any decision, according to the proposal.
But resident Ronald Deck questioned if the town would be able to enforce the law. He said he’s complained about his neighbors owning chickens and nothing has been done. The animals, Deck said, have been disruptive and carry an odor.
“The problem is nothing really happens,” he said. “There’s no follow-through.”
But Jacob Lagasse said the fact that people already maintain chickens in town is reason enough to ensure proper regulations.
“Outlawing these chickens would mean no permits, no assessment of people’s properties in which the chickens are supposed to be held,” he said. “Illegalizing it would mean there would be no guidelines to follow, which means people would still have chickens and don’t really know if they’re doing things right.”
It’s unclear when lawmakers will take action on the law. Town Board members agreed to keep the public hearing open in order to collect additional input from residents.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.
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Chickens are coming home to roost in Rotterdam.