By a vote of 3-2, the Maplewood Township Committee approved an ordinance on Tuesday allowing for a one-year pilot program for up to 15 households in Maplewood to raise as many as three hens each for egg production.
The pilot will begin on March 1, 2012 and run through February 28, 2013. In response to , the ordinance had been amended to require that each permit applicant gain approval from contiguous neighbors. Coops and runs are required to be raised with trays underneath to catch guano. Food is required to be kept indoors overnight so as not to attract rats. And, no household would be allowed to keep chickens in neighborhoods where rats have been reported.
However, on Tuesday, Oct. 18, the Township Committee also tabled a resolution to approve the criteria for judging the success of the chicken pilot program. The criteria faced criticism from Committee members who found the language too vague. (Both the ordinance and the proposed criteria can be found in the attached PDF of the Oct. 18 Township Committee agenda.)
Mayor Vic DeLuca was the deciding vote in approving the chicken pilot program ordinance, and the fact that he cast his vote in favor of the pilot program deflated many opponents of the pilot program who showed to voice their opposition — for a fourth straight Township Committee meeting.
Residents of the Summit Avenue/Midland Boulevard area once again showed to voice their concerns about rats and property values.
"When I'm going to evaluate a house," said Gary Goetz, who identified himself as a real estate professional, "certainly if neighbors are raising chickens, it's going to be addressed in an appraisal."
Goetz also echoed an argument raised in separate comments by residents Ed Bolden and Lee Navlen: "We have a whole host of topics more serious for you to talk about," he said, addressing the Committee and citing taxes and redevelopment.
Tom Egan of Summit Avenue voiced another argument also argued by others, saying the ordinance, which required neighbor's approval, would "pit neighbor against neighbor."
During discussion by the Committee, Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta said that he felt that "support on both sides is not that much different" and that the topic was "not as hot as media coverage would have you believe." Ultimately, Profeta predicted that only 5 to 10 households would have coops under the pilot and that the town should "give it a chance."
Committeeman Jerry Ryan remained staunchly against the program, saying he felt the "goals are not quantifiable." In addition, he said, "The potential negatives of this are not as dire as people are making them out to be, but they are real specific and real noticeable and real measurable."
Vice Mayor Kathy Leventhal said she continued to be in favor of the pilot. She said she continued to look at the big picture of local food, health and the "education of our children." In addition, the "draft ordinance had been reviewed in detail and major changes had been made."
Committeeman Marlon K. Brownlee continued to be against the ordinance although he found its "objectives are laudable." Said Brownlee, "The overwhelming majority of people I've approached or who have approached me are negative. They think it's a bad idea."
DeLuca was the deciding vote.
He recalled how he at first thought the proposal for the pilot program was a "ridiculous chicken issue." But, said DeLuca, after the presentation by the Green Team in the summer and continuing discussions, he started "thinking about how this works."
"I am going to support a one-year pilot study," said DeLuca, "I will not agree to any extension if any of the negative criteria appear."
The Township Committee will next discuss those criteria at the Township Committee meeting on November 1.
, Maplewood's historical museum, is hosting Chick Talk (The Backyard Variety) this Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m. for free. The event will include Montclair-based chicken-owner Grace Grund, two of her hens, and a history of chicken farming in Maplewood. For more information, click here.