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Wheatfield cries foul on chickens

by jmaloni
Fri, May 30th 2014 08:30 pm

by Susan Mikula Campbell

When chickens move in next door in a residential area, it can cause a squawk.

The Wheatfield Town Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, June 2, on a proposed ordinance that would put some limits on not only chickens and roosters, but other types of fowl, such as ducks, turkeys or pheasants.

"The foul law came about due to a complaint from a resident on Shawnee Road who had the pleasure of seeing her neighbor purchase, grow then slaughter about 65 chickens in their residential neighborhood," said Supervisor Bob Cliffe. "This is an agricultural business being done in a residential zone, which requires a permit from the Planning Board. The process did not pass the 'smell test,' so the Planning Board initiated discussion on a possible chicken law."

With the help of Town Attorney Bob O'Toole, the Planning Board came up with a basic law, which was reviewed by the Comprehensive Planning Task Force.

Because this is a change to the town's zoning law, it requires a public hearing. A vote by the Town Board could come at Monday's meeting or, if there are questions or suggestions from the public or board members, it could be held for further review.

The town, known for its farming heritage, hasn't exactly been overwhelmed with complaints about feathered residents.

"I think the Planning Board felt it should be proactive, make a proposal and sort of be ahead of the curve," O'Toole said. "We don't really have any law that regulates the chickens or other fowl in residential areas."

The fowl regulations are designed to govern the keeping of fowl and prevent nuisances and conditions that are unsanitary or unsafe.

The regulations include limiting the number of fowl to six at a single-family residential building in certain zoning districts. Limits are set on things like distance from the neighbors, size and placement of cages, cleanliness and sale of eggs or meat. Slaughtering is not allowed. Permit requirements and violation penalties also are set.

O'Toole said a copy of the fowl law should be on the town's website this week.

Also on the website should be something far more controversial - the latest draft of the town's proposed biosolids ban. The ban would affect the Quasar property on Liberty Drive and the company's plans to distribute nitrogen-rich equate to area farmers. A moratorium on the process currently is in place, giving the town time to work with an environmental attorney and independent environmental expert on the ban.

Because the town and residents believe they were not fully informed about the contents of biosolids (treated human waste from wastewater treatment plants) or the percent of biosolids that would be used in the process to create energy, they are insisting on a ban against further development at the site or use of equate on farm fields. Equate is the matter leftover after waste matter (restaurant oils, spoiled food, biosolids, etc.) creates energy (methane) for about a month at Quasar's Liberty Drive anaerobic digestion facility.

Nathan Carr, the Ohio-based Quasar's local representative, has offered several proposals for changes in the digestion process and equate storage, as well as, most recently, independent third party testing of equate to avoid a costly legal battle likely to occur if a ban is eventually approved.

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