Updated October 5, 2011: Maplewood Patch has received a copy of an email from Cedar Grove Township Manager Tom Tucci stating: "The Cedar Grove town ordinance only allows domesticated animals, no chickens."
Mike McKee and Gary Goetz don't think the Green Team's backyard chicken proposal passes the smell test.
It's not that McKee and Goetz, both residents in the Midland Blvd. area, think that the proposal to allow a pilot program in which 15 Maplewood households can raise up to 3 hens in backyard coops for one year will make a stink (well, maybe they do). It's that they don't really believe that there is a trend toward raising hens for egg production in backyards across Essex County.
In July, a member of the Green Team in one form or another. The report has been cited by Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta in his defense of the pilot program. An ordinance for the one-year pilot program will be introduced at the Maplewood Township Committee meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. If introduced, a hearing and final vote on the ordinance would take place on October 18.
In the meantime, McKee and Goetz have been busy working the phones.
McKee has found that, although much of the Green Team's report was factually correct, there are at least two exceptions. He and Goetz also feel that one could take issue with interpreting the report's designation of many towns as "permits chickens; no specific ordinance" to indicate a chicken-friendly trend.
First, as Goetz noted at the Sept. 6 meeting and Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta acknowledged at the Sept. 20 meeting, Belleville rescinded its ordinance allowing for backyard chickens on May 24. Patch Belleville Editor Paul Milo reports that the given reason for changing course in Belleville was noise. Milo says that backyard chickens had recently proliferated with an influx of immigrants from Central America.
McKee also forwarded to Patch an email from Nutley Health Inspector Joseph Petti in which Petti states that he found that chickens were not permitted under the zoning code provision § 700-39. Prohibited uses in all districts. The prohibition includes "the raising and keeping of livestock and poultry."
In addition, McKee found that one town listed as "permits chickens, has no specific ordinance," may soon act to ban them. Cedar Grove currently has no ordinance for or against but its health department is drafting an ordinance that will disallow chickens. (Updated: In an email dated Oct. 5, 2011, Cedar Grove Township Manager Tom Tucci reports, "The Cedar Grove town ordinance only allows domesticated animals, no chickens.")
Otherwise, McKee contends that the Green Team report's designation of "permits chickens; no specific ordinance" is not indicative of an active chicken-raising community. For example, in calls to Glen Ridge township staff, one official knew of no residents raising chickens; another said there were possibly "a couple" of residents doing so. In Roseland, where the ordinance obtained by McKee states that "the keeping of swine, cows, horses or chickens" is prohibited "except by special permission of the Board of Health," an administative staffer could not recall anyone asking for permission.
McKee also argues that communities that allow for backyard chickens in some cases have restrictions that would make it impossible to raise chickens in a Maplewood setting where properties are smaller and neighbors are closer. For example, Fairfield's ordinance states:
No structure shall be built or maintained which is less than fifty (50) feet from the doors or windows of any neighboring dwelling or less than ten (10) feet from any neighboring property line.
West Orange, West Caldwell and Montclair also require structures to be located no closer than 50 feet from a neighboring dwelling.
Maplewood's proposed ordinance (see the October 4 Preliminary Agenda) will require that structures or runs for chickens be located no closer than 10 feet from the property line or thirty (30) feet from a neighborhing house (similar to the ordinance in Verona).
Ultimately, McKee said, "If there was such a movement, towns would be moving to pass these ordinances, but that's not the case."