The Dolgeville village board earlier this week did not take action on a proposed local law that would allow residents to keep up to eight chickens.
Instead, the trustees decided to give the village planning board more time to refine the law and complete a required state environmental quality review for submission to the Herkimer and Fulton County planning boards. Mayor Bruce Lyon said the public hearing on the law will reconvene after the county planning boards weigh in on the proposal.
“Personally, I’m neither for or against people raising chickens for their eggs, but I do understand some of the concerns residents have been raised,” said Lyon. “What I like about the law is that the village has the ability to revoke a person’s permit if they are complaints or if they do not comply with the rules and regulations.”
If the local law is approved, section No. 26(B) of the zoning law would be amended to read “Within any district except AG, the only animals which are permitted are those defined herein as household pets excepting that upon issuance of a special permit pursuant to Section 17-10 and subject to any additional, or superseding, requirements and prohibitions of the Agricultural and Markets Law, Public Health Law or Environmental Conservation Law, a maximum of eight pullets or hens of the livestock fowl identified as gallus gallus domesticus, commonly known as female chickens, shall be permitted.”
Nora Bell and Bev Waleur asked the board of trustees in February if they could raise chickens — no more than six and no roosters — to harvest their eggs. They were told the village’s current zoning law does not allow chickens to be kept in residential districts and they submitted a request for a variance to start the process of amending the law.
If the law is adopted, roosters would not be prohibited in the village and residents would not be allowed to raise chickens for commercial purposes. Residents would be required to keep their chickens secured in a backyard coop. They would also be required to keep the coop in a sanitary condition and to keep the chicken feed in a metal or plastic container.
The permit application to raise chickens would require village planning board review and approval, and the permit could be revoked if complaints are lodged.
“The law is still very fluid. Nothing has been settled, so there is still time to make changes,” said planning board Chairman Van Billings. “Maybe eight chickens are too many. Maybe it would be better if people were only allowed to have six. Maybe there should be fines for violating the law. Maybe there should be a permit fee. The law is still just a concept. It can be changed to alleviate the concerns residents may have.”
Page 2 of 2 - “Chickens are a lot of work to maintain, I’m not sure people know just how much is involved in taking care of them,” said North Main Street resident David Jaquay.
“They attract predators and their waste can be harmful to the environment and humans if it’s not disposed of properly,” said Cline Street resident Walter Chmielewski. “We’re talking about neighborhoods, not farms. I’m opposed to the whole law.”
Trustee Donna Loucks said she would not oppose the law “as long as the people who have chickens take care of them. We don’t want noise or smells in our neighborhoods.”
“I understand the concerns about cleanliness, odors, noise and the potential for chickens to attract predators like coyotes and foxes, but these things can be prevented if you are a responsible pet owner,” said Waleur, a resident of Cline Street and a member of the village planning board. “If you take care of the chickens there shouldn’t be problems.”
Billings said residents keeping house hens in a backyard coop in order to harvest fresh eggs is a growing suburban and urban trend.
“Each special-use permit would require a public hearing and the planning board will consider each request on a case-by-case basis,” said Billings. “Perhaps we can subject permit holders to an annual inspection to ensure they are abiding the law. Whatever we choose to do, I understand why people are in favor of this trend. To be able to control what goes into your eggs in a day and age when you are not sure what is being put in your food is a good reason to raise your own chickens. This practice has been successful in other communities, it’s just a matter of tweaking the law so it can be successful here.”
In other business Monday evening, Lyon appointed Leann Weaver to the village board of trustees. She will serve in place of Gary Luther, who resigned last month, and will remain on the board until the March village election. At that time an individual will be elected to serve the remainder of Luther’s term.