Chicken Pilot Program Approved by Township Committee

But the Committee still must pass a resolution stipulating the criteria for the success of the pilot program.

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.

Lee Navlen October 19, 2011 at 12:30 PM
We came, we saw, we failed! I did ask Fred if he intends on raising chickens and he said yes. Perhaps, he's locking in his next hobby now that he's retiring from public office. Whatever, the case, I do give him credit for doing all of his homework on the subject. He seemingly in good faith believes this is a great thing and he's obviously willing to put his money where his mouth is. I wish him luck but personally I think raising chickens in a community like Maplewood is disgusting.
Danielle Tropea Friedland October 19, 2011 at 01:20 PM
What are people supposed to do with their chickens after the pilot program ends? Eat them?
Sheila Baker Gujral October 19, 2011 at 02:10 PM
I don't think it's disgusting to raise chickens if you take care of them properly and they are not noisy, as with any animal. I do get grossed out watching people pick up dog waste (of course better than leaving it there), but if people are taking care of their own animals, it doesn't bother me. I also wonder about folks feeding feral cats and leaving out birdseed for (non-chicken) birds as it seems to attract unwanted animal visitors. While I would never want to raise chickens since it's too much work, I would love it if my neighbors did. Hopefully I could earn a fresh egg or two if they had to go out of town and needed help feeding and cleaning their hens. Then I could be relieved that I don't have to do it on a regular basis when they return.
Ken Houghton October 19, 2011 at 06:17 PM
So which neighbors have to approve? Adjacent, certainly. Behind? Cater-corner? When I strangle the chickens of my back-neighbor-who-didn't-ask-me that are cackling at 3:00 a.m., will that be considered a mark against the pilot? Give the number of cats that have been run over on the street recently--where is Patch on this important local issue, by the way?--I'm just waiting for MOL to add a "feathers all over my lawn" category.
Mary Mann October 19, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Ken, Here's the complete text from "Section D. Neighbor Consent". It reads: "Prior to being given a permit to participate in the Pilot Program, each interested party must secure the written consent of all contiguous property owners. Any such consent will not run with the land but will be specific to the neighbor giving consent. However, any consent given pursuant to this Ordinance shall be effective for the duration of the Pilot Program, regardless of any change in ownership of neighborhing properties."
lydia lacey October 20, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Glad the pilot program has been approved - many thanks go to Fred, Vic and Kathy. I agree with what Sheila Baker Gujral said a few lines above - let's see how this shakes out. I have friends in Montclair with pet chickens and they love their fresh eggs!
Clive December 19, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Pet chickens for eggs is neither economical or Green. On such a small scale the idea will not be viable in this climate. Time will tell - and the contiguous neighbors will have the last vote unless they chicken out!
Nick VonKlock December 19, 2012 at 01:45 PM
When I was a boy, I raised a few Bani chickens in my closet (I had a very understanding mother who eventually made me move them to the backyard). My father raised quail in our garage (again, Mom was VERY understanding). Raising birds can be very educational for children, and contrary to an earlier post, my chickens weren't noisy but my friend's roosters sure were unpleasant! (Don't worry neighbors; I'm not planning to join the program just yet.


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