Chicken Law Change Rejected By Council
Lot size for owning hens would have gone from 2 acres to nearly a quarter of an acre.
The council voted down an ordinance 5-3 Wednesday that would have significantly reduced the amount of land needed to keep chicken hens on private property.
The ordinance would have changed the minimum lot size to own up to four hens from two acres to 10,000 square feet, about a quarter of an acre. Currently, residents can own up to 25 hens if their property is two acres in size or larger.
Resident Victor Alfieri has championed changing the law to allow residents with smaller lots the ability to own chickens. Alfieri has kept three hens on his Woodlot Road property in a coop and chicken run illegally for a few years.
Erica Evans, founder of the North Jersey Locavores, said the rules should be changed to allow a greater percentage of residents the opportunity to own chickens.
Many council members said that the new lot size was too small to support voting in favor of the change.
“I’m not against chickens,” Councilwoman Lonni Miller Ryan said, “but I think we need to consider smaller lot sizes.”
Several residents expressed their displeasure with the ordinance.
“It would open up a can of worms,” David Terpstra said. “I just think there is no room for chickens in a residential area.”
Alfieri has previously said that chickens are not dirty, noisy or messy.
“Most of the people who complain about chickens have never owned them,” Alfieri said. “The only thing they know about chickens is what they see on television.”
Pandie Napolitano disagrees. She is Alfieri’s neighbor. She said Alfieri’s chickens have flown into her yard.
“Chickens do smell and their droppings smell,” Napolitano said.
Residents and officials were concerned that the new regulations would lower property values in town.
“The problem is that a quarter of an acre is too small,” Napolitano said. “Our houses are in too close proximity. Someone who is not a chicken fan is not going to purchase a house that is in such close proximity to chickens.”
Councilman Joe Schweighardt said the township cited Alfieri twice in the past two years for having the chickens on his property.
“For years he just did what he wanted,” Schweighardt said.
Schweighardt said the ordinance amounted to spot zoning, which is why he voted against it.