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Proposed chicken law scratched; town board allows community gardens

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CANTON — The Town Council decided Monday evening to scrap the original version of a proposed law that would allow people to raise chickens and cockerels in residential zones.

The 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 already has 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 projects, such as community gardens, in residential zones. A special permit will be required and the applicant must have a minimum of 3 acres of residential property. Only produce 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 support small-scale agriculture projects.

Councilman Daniel G. Fay said the new law for community gardens represents a compromise he could support. That law also prohibits contaminated water and fertilizer from draining onto adjacent property.

Regarding the chicken law, opponents said they were against it as proposed because it would have required 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 written.

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

Edward J. Nee, 1 Woodmere Drive, reiterated his opposition to any changes to the 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 that the town establish minimum setbacks for CSA operations, regulate structures used at farm stands and ensure that all farm stands be situated in safe roadside positions.

Douglas B. 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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