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Fate Of Controversial Chickens Rests With Judge

Municipal judge expects to rule by June 28 on whether resident Victor Alfieri can keep three hens on his property. Alfieri has championed getting the law changed so more people can own hens on smaller lots.

The fate of Victor Alfieri’s chickens is in legal limbo.

Alfieri, an advocate of sustainability, received a summons earlier this year for keeping three chickens on his property. Town law states that chickens can only be kept on lots two acres or larger. Alfieri owns about a quarter of an acre.

Alfieri appeared before municipal judge Lawrence Katz May 17 regarding the summons.

“I do believe that owning chickens should be regulated, but ultimately it comes down to the responsibility of the homeowner,” Alfieri said. “I feel like I’m raising these hens in a responsible way.”

Court Administrator Lori Ellicott said that Katz needed time to research the case and the law regarding the matter. She said Katz would issue his ruling by June 28.

Alfieri has had his three hens in his backyard for three years. The hens are kept in a multi-level coop inside a fenced-in chicken run. He insists the chickens are not loud or noisy, despite complaints from his neighbors to the contrary. Each hen lays about 300 eggs annually.

Alfieri insists that he not breaking the law by having the hens on his property. He said he has never been fined for owning the hens or told by anyone that he needs to get rid of them.

Alfieri has been to change the law to allow more people to own chickens, which he says are an important part of a leading a more sustainable lifestyle.

The council that would have decreased the minimum lot size from two acres to about one quarter of an acre, but council members said the new lot size was too small to support voting in favor of the change.

‘I’m not against chickens,” Councilwoman Lonni Miller Ryan previously said, “but I think we need to consider smaller lot sizes.”

The original ordinance governing the keeping of chickens on private property was approved in 1949. The lot size requirement was added to the law in 1958.

Alfieri contents that the law applies to commercial agricultural uses, not personal use. He said he has never sold or bred any chickens or eggs since owning the hens. He said that having large gardens, hens, and other animals was common when the law was created because the country was recovering from World War II.

“People look at some of these laws as if they were made today. This law was made a long time ago and things were different back then,” Alfieri said. “People wouldn’t have 30 hens, they had three or four. It has nothing to do with what I’m doing.”

Alfieri said he would appeal the decision if Katz rules against him.

“I have every intention of appealing if he rules against me,” Alfieri said.

Alfieri owns the hens and has several small gardens on his property. He harvests thousands of pounds of vegetables, fruit, herbs, and spices from them every year. He grows everything using all-natural, organic materials. He fertilizes his gardens with food scraps and eggshells, among other natural materials.

“If I do win, it’ll be a victory for healthy living and sustainability,” Alfieri said.

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Nose Wayne June 07, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Rob,Have the chickens been to see the doctor yet?
Victor Alfieri June 07, 2012 at 12:45 PM
My goal is not to embarrass the town, the mayor, or town officials. It's nobody's fault. It is a very large municipality and laws are misinterpreted all the time. It's not uncommon. No town official is intentionally enforcing a law does not exist. In my pursuit to find the truth, I notified many town officials over the last 2 1/2 years of my findings and argument. I was always met with the same response. You are breaking the law. I was than told to apply for a variance. So we did. $400.00 later, it was denied. When I asked if I could appeal this ruling, I was told I could try to change the existing law. I've been trying over that last year and a half and got very close but it fell apart in the 11th hour. It did not pass. During this time, we never were told to remove the hens from the property. NEVER. We also have never been fined for owning and raising hens. My wife and I have always tried to make things right and we always new that a judge is the only person that has the authority to decide if we were in fact breaking the law. Innocent until proven guilty. After 2 years, 9 months, and 8 days, we finally got our opportunity to plead our case in the Wayne Municipal Court on May 17th 2012. The judge did not rule from the bench and said he needed more time to understand the facts. We respectfully await his decision.
Rob Burke June 07, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Yes. They were examined by Doctor No.
Nose Wayne June 07, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Rob, Was that Dr No or NOSE? VICTOR,SORRY but in this town,it's GUILTY until proven innocent. I NOSE that for a fact!!!!!
Rob Burke June 07, 2012 at 01:17 PM
I gave him directions. Told him to turn left at the viaduct. He asked, why a duck? Why not a horse? Or a chicken?
Rob Burke June 07, 2012 at 09:13 PM
@Claire: It turns out that there are easy ways to manage the smell. I just picked up more feed up at the farm that I got my hens from. The owner told me a couple cups of lime sprinkled around will virtually eliminate the smell. I will find out for myself soon enough. I hope you can come by for the ribbon cutting on Saturday, June 16 at 1 pm. I'd love to see you there. Note to everyone: all are welcome to come to the ribbon cutting.
the dude June 07, 2012 at 09:28 PM
You'd think an expert like Alfieri would have known that remedy...apparently not, since the smell of his 3 hens repeatedly forced his neighbors indoors. Now, since we are appropriating nicknames, I shall refer to you two as Rob Jurke and Claire Furburger. Quite appropriate...don't you think?
Rob Burke June 07, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Silly Doodie, we only call you Doodie because you are a coward hiding behind an anonymous screen name, spewing lies, venom and hatred. Since we sign our names to everything we write, you can mock us by rhyming with our actual names, and everyone knows who we are. We don't hide under a rock like you, Doodie. And you, Doodie, are the one who insisted on using a nickname and offered that we use any variation of the dude. If the Doodie fits, I guess you'll wear it. In the meantime, since three chickens don't smell fifteen feet from their coop, and since victor hasn't violated any law that you have reprinted here, why are you still attacking him and insulting him? Do you have diverticulitis or something?
Victor Alfieri June 07, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Do you have diverticulitis or something? Rob I just spit out my 20 year old brown spirit....too funny. Hey Dude...I have 3 hens I do not have smelly hen problems. But I have read about the citrus, It's used in dog & cat kennels. I have never needed it. My complaining neighbor has a 60 pound dog. Questions for you dude. What produces more waste? 3 hens or a 60 pound dog? Come on buddy, your pea brain can figure it out.
the dude June 07, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Maybe your chickens' smell doesn't carry, but yours are in an open area, on a windy ridge in May and early June...yet you still reported that they smell. The neighbors testified that the smell of his chickens drove them indoors. If the neighbors were more than 15 feet from the chickens, then the smell obviously carries more than 15 feet in certain environments, including enclosed residential areas and calm winds. I have not attacked or insulted the chicken man in this thread, but you have attacked and insulted those who disagree with you. Is that because you are a Burke, or a jurke, or both?
the dude June 07, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Alfi...were your neighbors lying when they testified at the council meeting that they could not enjoy their yard, and have been forced indoors due to the smell of your chickens? In the article above, you insist the chickens are not loud or noisy, despite complaints from your neighbors to the contrary. Who should we beieve? Are the conditions that your neighbors report not possible? Your jurkey friend reported that "...with the rain and the heat, they smell." His chickens smell, but yours don't or haven't or won't smell?
the dude June 07, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Burke: "It turns out that there are easy ways to manage the smell...a couple cups of lime sprinkled around will virtually eliminate the smell." Alfieri: " I have read about the citrus, It's used in dog & cat kennels." LOL...classic. Hey...I read that lime tastes real good in a margarita. Good lord, where on earth did you get your chicken-expert merit badge anyway?
Rob Burke June 07, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Doodie, try to keep up with this very simple logic. There is no law that prohibits the keeping of hens for personal consumption. Period. If there was such a law, i am sure that Your Doodiness would have told us all about it by now. And I am also sure that victor would have been found guilty from his trial from almost a month ago, by now. As for my location. Yes, I am on a windy ridge. That's why a wind turbine makes so much sense at my property. But my hens live nestled against a big wooded, hill where the air is stagnant. Doodie, we all agree that hens should be regulated. But right now, they aren't. You need to call the lawmakers and campaign for whatever regulations you want, if you are he'll bent on the issue. But in all events, victor's hens aren't going anywhere. His is a ore existing confirming use, and by law will be grandfathered no matter what regulations are hereafter adopted. I am no longer going to sit here and listen to Doodie bad mouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!
Rob Burke June 07, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Doodie, why don't you come out from under your rock and show yourself? Are you that ashamed of the words you post? I wouldn't blame you if you are.
Rex miatke June 07, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Here you go Rob. Right down your alley. This guy might need a lawyer who knows a thing or two about chicken Law. New Milford must be easier to deal with than Wayne.
Rob Burke June 07, 2012 at 11:46 PM
@Rex: I'm not sure, but the post says that the ordinance there is a blanket prohibition. If that's accurate, there isn't anything to do with lawyering. The only path would be to get the lawmakers to change the law. A grass roots effort over time is probably the best path, which I am certain victor would help with as would I. I do believe, though, regulation is necessary and important. In any event, Rex, I'd like to invite you to the ribbon cutting at my Victory Garden. It's at 1 pm on Saturday the 16 th. It's time to look forward and do good things together, as a unified community. It would mean a lot to me if you stopped by. I understand we share an interest in hiking - we may have more in common than first meets the eye.
Al Scala June 08, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Hey Nose...If I want to raise Anaconda's in my pool, is that legal?
Steve June 08, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Judge Chicken, frankly.
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 08, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Rob is correct, the New Milford law outright prohibits keeping poultry in the Borough with the exception of homing pidgeons. The law in question is a board of health law and only the board can change it, which they refuse to do. The following link is to a Patch article about the meeting I went to on Wednesday and also a summary of my unsucessful fight to get my chickens back. Unlike Victor, I was in clear violation of the law and had to remove the chickens. Here is the link: http://newmilford-nj.patch.com/articles/board-of-health-tells-chicken-outlaw-this-is-over-with
Rob Burke June 08, 2012 at 06:33 PM
@Jeff: We can still organize and get the law changed. It will take time, but it can be done. If you want our help, I'm in.
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 08, 2012 at 06:45 PM
@Rob, thank you for the offer. I definitely want to continue to pursue this and can use all the help I can get. I remember reading about your fight to get a wind turbine around the time I had my solar panels installed. As a side note, New Milford recently passed an ordinance that severly restricts solar panel installations.
the dude June 08, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Phony Furbuger...you wrote this: Claire Furber 3:00 pm on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 To the dude: You can't compare 16 chickens to only 3. With adequate upkeep 3 chickens should be no big deal when it comes to odors or noise. Hey Jurke...Oliver Wendell Douglas from Woodlot Farms wants to know whether to use lime slices or wedges to eliminate the smell of his backyard chickens.
Rob Burke June 08, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Jeff - why don't you come by the cad wash so we can discuss. Maybe for the ribbon cutting?
Sandy Fantau June 08, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Victor, I hope you can have the law changed or interrupted correctly. I had Rob's eggs for breakfast this morning and I have to say they where the best. How soon we forget what fresh eggs taste like. The yolks are such a dark yellow and the whites taste great. I not sure how many people remember the egg farm that was in Wayne years ago. Brought back memories. Best of luck Victor
Nose Wayne June 11, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Sandy and Claire, Four that I remember Klammers Egg Farm on Ratzer Road, Valley Tone Farms on Ratzer Road, Haledon Hachery on Hamburg Turnpike (where Burger King is today,chicken coops are sttill there,Little white buildings next to the jughandle),and Ellmans on Oldham Road, three story chicken house is still there today but no chickens.
Diane Hummel June 11, 2012 at 04:33 PM
134-29.1 Agriculture, including farm markets and commercial farms, shall be permitted in all zones, in accordance with the following requirements and limitations: A. Any form of agriculture or horticulture except: (2) The keeping of chickens or other fowl, unless on property of 2 acres or more and provided that for a number up to 25 they are kept in a building or yard no part of which is closer than 20 feet to a dwelling on the same plot nor less than 50 feet from either side or rear property line and 200 feet from the front yard property line and, that for a number in excess of 25, they are kept in a yard or building not more than 2 stories high and no part of which building or yard is closer than 50 feet to a dwelling on the same plot nor within 200 feet of any property line. The restrictions contained in this subsection shall not apply to the raising and breeding of homing pigeons, since it is hereby determined that they are not fowl. With that said, the law includes farmers markets, yet it is not limited to them. And might I add that some points made here are very good, and others of you I think need to get a life - ex. Claire Furber. You take shots at who you incorrectly think is Pandie, then I will take shots at you. I am 1/2 the age of most of you, yet I act more mature - its funny. Rob - the garden looks very nice by the way - I applaud you.
Rob Burke June 11, 2012 at 08:57 PM
@Diane Hummel: Thanks for the nice words about our Victory Garden. As for your legal analysis, you stopped short. The part you left out is the definition of "Agriculture," found in §134-2.2, which clearly states: "Agriculture means the production PRINCIPALLY FOR THE SALE TO OTHERS of plants, animals or their products..." So unless Victor sells eggs, chickens, meat or manure to others, he cannot even be accused of violating the ordinance you cite. In fact, Town Planner Szabo testified under oath that he has no evidence that Victor has ever sold anything to anyone. I still think that backyard hens should be regulated. Right now, they aren't. I also believe that justice delayed is justice denied. Can anyone think of a single instance in the history of the world where a municipal judge took 6 weeks to rule on an ordinance violation???? Its patently absurd that Victor's good name and reputation have been sullied by false accusations by elected officials that he is a lawbreaker. I, for one, find these accusations to be reckless at best, and malicious at worst.
Diane Hummel June 12, 2012 at 12:27 AM
@ Rob - I do understand the part about "principally" being for sale to others, but it does not say "solely" for sale to others. It seems to be one of those loopholes that can be interpreted in many ways. I do agree with you that the law can be changed to reflect the times slightly, but the lot sizes in that area are indeed VERY small.
Rob Burke June 12, 2012 at 12:37 AM
@Diane: I know you know that there can't be any way on God's green earth to say that someone who never sold eggs to anyone could stand accused of keeping hens principally to sell eggs to others. There's nothing to argue and there's no loophole. The ordinance in question does not regulate the keeps of hens for personal consumption. Victor deserves an apology from those who have called him a law breaker. He deserves an acquittal from Judge Katz, which is now a month overdue, inexplicably. And a reasonable regulation of hens is needed. I won't repeat my thoughts in that regard. They are fully set forth elsewhere in other comments to this story.
Heather July 26, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Wow. The neighbors in this article are ridiculous. Try living next to 'farmers' that have roosters, hens & ducks on your property starting at 5am until dusk. They crap everywhere, especially around the play area. Their known aggressive roosters try to attack my little kids. Ducks using our pool. Our neighbors don't give a sh*t and it is legal! Who cares of Victor wants 3 chickens contained on HIS property!! I just have to it, thank you Farmville! So addicting now everybody wants to farm in real life!

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