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Proposed chicken law scratched; Canton board allows community gardens

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CANTON- Town board members decided Monday evening to scrap the original version of a proposed law that would allow people to raise chickens and cockerels in the town’s residential zones.

The proposed chicken law needs substantial revisions, board members decided after several residents spoke against the law as written. It will be handed back to the town Planning Board, which has already spent months haggling over the issue.

“You’re going to have to start the whole process over again,” Town Attorney Charles B. Nash told board members.

However, the board voted unanimously in favor of a separate zoning law that will allow residents to operate community supported agriculture (CSA) projects, such as community gardens, in the residential parts of town. A special permit is required and the applicant must have a minimum of 3 acres of residential property. Only produce actually grown on the site can be sold there, and off-street parking must be available for all vehicles.

Maria “Flip” Filippi, operator of Little Grasse Foodworks, a CSA on Miner Street Road, said “food security” is an important issue and the board should be supporting small-scale agriculture projects.

Town Board member Daniel G. Fay said he felt the new zoning law for community gardens represented a compromise that he could support. That law also prohibits contaminated water and fertilizer from draining onto adjacent property.

In regards to the chicken law, many of the opponents said they were against the law as proposed because it requires residential property owners to have a minimum of 3 acres.

In its review, the St. Lawrence County Planning Board also raised concerns about both laws and suggested several revisions, including lowering the acreage requirement or eliminating it altogether. For the chicken law, county planners said the town should set standards that address setbacks, maximum number of birds, minimum area per bird, buffering such as fencing and waste management.

The board’s decisions followed public hearings on the two laws that drew about 35 people to the basement of the municipal building. Several residents said they supported the concept of allowing chickens, but urged the board not to adopt the law as now written.

“I’m not in favor of the 3-acre minimum,” said Kerstin “Dulli” Tengeler, owner of Birdsfoot Farms, Route 25. “I like the recommendations the county made.”

Edward J. Nee, 1 Woodmere Drive, reiterated his opposition to any changes to the existing residential zoning code. Currently, community-supported agriculture projects and chickens are not allowed in the town’s residential zones. Those areas include sections of county routes 27 and 32, Hale Road, Pike Road, Judson Street Road, Miner Street Road and Route 310.

“I get the feeling you folks feel you have to change the zoning rules. I want them exactly the way they are,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair for the people who have been there all these years. I hope you think about us.”

County planners also recommended minimum setbacks for CSA operations, regulated structures used as farm stands and that all farm stands be located in safe roadside locations.

Doug Welch, a county Planning Board member who resides in Pierrepont, said he supported having laws on the books that address small-scale agriculture in residential zones.

“I’m glad this is moving forward, and I hope it can be tweaked in the future,” Mr. Welch said.

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