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Town Votes to Introduce Backyard Chicken Ordinance

A public hearing and final vote will take place on October 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

Mayor Vic DeLuca appears to the the swing vote in the battle of backyard chickens, which looks to come to its conclusion on October 18.

DeLuca cast the deciding vote to introduce the ordinance that would permit a pilot program to allow up to 15 Maplewood households to raise as many as 3 hens for egg production for a one-year period.

Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta and Vice Mayor Kathleen Leventhal gave detailed reasons for supporting the measure; Committeemen Marlon K. Brownlee and Jerry Ryan gave equally definitive reasons for why they are opposed to the pilot program. DeLuca made no comments for or against, simply voting "yes" to introduce the ordinance.

DeLuca was one of the few in the room who did not state an opinion on raising chickens in Maplewood. A number of residents once again appeared at the meeting to voice their opposition or support — with more residents in opposition.

Steven Weber began public comments by saying he felt that the proposal had been refined to reflect residents' concerns and was now "a well-conceived proposal for a highly regulated pilot."

Reesa Salomon of the Green Team was likewise in support: "I believe the Township Committee made the proper changes to the ordinance."

Ruth Ross noted that she loved living on a chicken farm as a girl in Toms River. She felt that "some of these concerns are just not efficient, productive, appropriate as to what chickens are about." In particular, Ross said that concerns of odors from three chickens was "ill-founded and unwarranted."

On the opposing side, several residents made comments.

Marli Craig presented 145 signatures against the ordinance.

Catherine Racette added research that she had performed, citing a 2009 New York Times article titled "When the Problems Come Home to Roost." The story, said Racette, documented the downside of the backyard chicken trend in the Bay Area in California, replete with "diseases with odd names" and unwanted chickens being abandoned to animal shelters. Racette also said that the group Farm Sanctuary raised many concerns about "hobbyists" raising chickens. "They are very much against this," said Racette.

Earlier, Planning Board Chair Tom Carlson had noted what he felt were technical issues with the ordinance. Carlson said that he felt that the ordinance should include criteria for evaluating the success or failure of the pilot. Carlson said that the ordinance also did not specify single-family homes. In addition, he noted that, although the ordinance used the term "backyard" to describe the chickens, it did not specifically restrict chickens to the backyard and that chickens could conceivably be kept in sideyards per the ordinance (although the ordinance did specify that chickens must be kept behind the front setback).

No one speaking at the meeting said that he or she would raise chickens.

Deputy Mayor Profeta cautioned against "losing the forest for the trees."

"The local food movement is well documented," said Profeta, citing healthier food and farming that is good for the environment. "But another enormous factor is the realities of what the industrial egg production industry is." Profeta then, invoking Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, described chickens that are given feed produced through heavy fertilization and kept immobile in cages with their beaks cut off so as not to peck other birds. He mentioned heavy dosing of the chickens with antibiotics and the use of arsenic.

"I think it's imperative in this country that we provide an alternative," said Profeta.

Ron McClellan October 12, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Actually you are not correct Suz. I challenge you to demonstrate any substantive information whatsoever that demonstrates the mere presence of a backyard coop lowers a property value, of either the property itself or an adjoining property. You can't. Why? Because . . .well . . . mainly because it doesn't. And Suz, I live in a town that allows backyard chickens. I'm even on a first name basis with our Animal Control officer. Know how much money they spend on dealing with chicken nuisances? Ehh . . .none, so far, in the three years we've had a dedicated animal control officer. What you refer to is mythical concerns, on the parts of the residents, and this is rather easily demonstrated by the reality that pretty much ANY town that considers ruling agianst keeping chickenes can't even count on their own Animal control data to illustrate a need. They have to rely on . . .well . . .folks like you with no actual experience complaining that the sky will fall if chickens are allowed. And it is Unamerican to want to deny your neighbor a liberty, simply because you are unexperienced and woefully ill-informed about the realities of chicken-keeping. You clearly haven't educated yourself, Suz, or you wouldn't be making some of the fallacious arguments you are attempting. I'm not sure what you aren't getting here. I am actually raising a flock of Backyard chickens.
Suz stone October 12, 2011 at 07:08 PM
Ron, I'm proud to say my neighbors and I fought a good fight for what we believe in here in Maplewood. We stood up for what we wanted and let our town officials know. This isn't an argument with you because we said what we had to say to the people that matter in own town. Good luck to you and your backyard chickens but we believe they are wrong here in Maplewood. Where we live. Take care, s.
Ron McClellan October 12, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Sad you fought such a pointless and baseless fight against peoples liberty. I wouldn't call that anything to be proud of Suz. It's actually quite shameful on your part. You may have "said what you had to say" . . .but unfortunately, if you said what you said in this thread . . .you were lying to and/or misleading your officials. Hopefully the people who actually know something keeping backyard chickens aren't calling it quits and will continue to contest the asinine, fiction-based infringements placed on them by overbearing zealots such as yourself and an uninformed local governance.
Suz stone October 12, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Ron, Not interested in having an argument with you online, plain and simple. We said what we had to say at the town meetings to the officials that matter. We live in Maplewood and we stand by our convictions and concerns for our lovely town. Have a nice day.
Ron McClellan October 12, 2011 at 07:55 PM
Well lets hope your officials actually did a little looking into it and they realize you were pretty much just making it up as you went along. I have no problem discussing issues online, and doing it in depth, since fallacious arguments are easily exposed in two way discourse. Folks who don't like discussing issues publicly and where what they claim can be seen by all . . .really hate that. You have a nice day too, Suz.

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