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Town of Canton ready to hatch new chicken law

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CANTON — A long-delayed zoning law change that would allow residents to raise chickens in the town’s residential zones may finally be coming to roost.

The town board has set a public hearing for 5 p.m. July 14 to allow people to weigh in on the zoning change which drew criticism from both supporters and opponents when the original version was proposed last year. The hearing will precede the town board’s monthly meeting in the Canton Municipal Building.

Canton Town Supervisor David T. Button said the revised version is more likely to win support from the town board and the public than the original version.

“We came up with a better plan than what we had,” Mr. Button said. “The county Planning Office provided some real solid guidance about how we could protect surrounding property owners and also let people raise chickens.”

Supporters of raising chickens in residential zones argued that the original zoning change proposal was too restrictive because it required property owners to have a minimum of three acres in order to raise poultry. It also required approval from neighbors and a special use permit.

Two homeowners on Woodmere Drive argued against the zone change and criticized town officials for not enforcing zoning laws that are already on the books.

Responding to the feedback, the Town Planning Board hatched up new regulations that eliminated the three-acre minimum for chickens. That means people can have chickens regardless of their property size if the town board approves the new law. Roosters are not allowed and the law doesn’t allow for other non-domesticated animals, such as pigs or sheep.

In exchange, the proposed law limits residential property owners to a maximum of six chickens and doesn’t allow roosters. It requires a special use permit. The original proposal did not set a limit on the number of birds but also prohibited roosters.

If things go smoothly, Mr. Button said the law could be expanded in the future to allow more than six chickens.

Also, property owners can apply for a variance with the town’s zoning board if they can show why the zoning rule should be altered for their property.

“We’re just tipping our toe in the water. If people get used to the possibility of having birds in their neighborhood, we could explore expanding the regulations,” Mr. Button said. “We’re taking this in piece meal fashion and we’ll assess where we are in another year.”

For chickens, property owners must have an enclosed coop with an enclosed run of a minimum of 100 square feet and maximum of 200 square feet. If the coop is less than 144 square feet, no building permit is required unless it’s attached to another building.

The village allows property owners to raise chickens in residential zones if their neighbors don’t object.

The town’s residential zones include sections of county routes 27 and 32, Hale Road, Judson Street Road, Miner Street Road, Woodmere Drive and Route 310. Residents in the town’s rural zones are already allowed to raise chickens without restrictions.

Last year, the town board agreed to zoning changes that allow community-supported agriculture in residential parts of the town, such as the CSA operated by Robert J. Washo and Flip P. Filippi of Little Grasse Foodworks, Miner Street Road.

Mr. Washo said the proposed chicken law is “a step in a better direction.”

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