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Canton Town Council wants separate laws for chickens, gardens

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CANTON — Zoning changes that would allow chickens and community gardens in the town’s residential areas will be drafted into two laws instead of one.

The Town Council decided Monday that it would be less complicated to consider the revisions separately, partly because rules governing animals will be more involved than those governing vegetable gardens.

“I would like to separate gardens and animals and have two different laws,” said Deputy Town Supervisor Paul Backus. “Down the road there may be different animals proposed. To me this is a neater and simpler way to do this.”

The board directed town attorney Charles B. Nash to provide draft laws at the board’s March 12 meeting.

The changes would affect roughly 280 parcels in residential zones, including a section of Miner Street Road where Little Grasse Foodworks, a community-supported agriculture project, has been illegally operating for the past three years.

The Town Council reached its decision after several people spoke in support of allowing chickens and community gardens in the town’s residential zones.

The discussion became more complicated when supporters questioned whether other forms of agriculture should be listed in the law such as beekeeping, maple sugaring and pick-your-own apple orchards and berry patches.

Town Supervisor David T. Button said residents who want to raise chickens will have to get approval from all their contiguous neighbors. The village of Canton allows residents to raise chickens but requires approval from adjoining neighbors.

The town will also require a site plan review and a special permit for those who want to raise animals in the town’s residential zones.

Earlier this month, the town Planning Board recommended revising the zoning law after about 40 people attended a meeting to support the change; only two were opposed.

Michael J. Furgal, 21 Woodmere Drive, reiterated his concern that the town is not enforcing its existing zoning code and questioned whether it will continue that practice.

“Farming was implemented on residential property three years ago. The board was aware of it, the codes officer was aware of it, yet no action was ever taken,” Mr. Furgal said. “If we’re going to have a code enforcement officer and a code, it should be enforced.”

In other discussion, several board members opposed the 1 percent sales tax increase the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators is pursuing.

County lawmakers have proposed giving towns and villages 10 percent of the revenue the hike would generate.

Councilman James T. Smith said if the county gets approval it should split the extra revenue 50-50 with the towns and villages. The state sales tax is 4 percent, which added to the county’s 3 percent results in the existing 7 percent sales tax.

“They should continue the formula as it stands,” Mr. Smith said. “I’m awful afraid we’re going to end up with an 8 percent sales tax and not solve any problems. An increase in sales tax is regressive. It hits the poorest people the hardest.”

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