Published DateLACONIA — The task force charged with clarifying sections of the zoning ordinance will hold a public meeting on Thursday, July 11 beginning at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall to consider proposals to permit keeping chickens in residential neighborhoods and to revise the definition of agriculture.
The issues arose a year ago when a resident of Bay Street, in the residential single-family district, sought a variance to keep chickens, which falls under the definition of agriculture in the zoning ordinance. The Zoning Board of Adjustment discovered that the strict wording of the ordinance prohibits not only the keeping of chickens but even the growing of flowers, fruits and vegetables in most parts of the city for both commercial purposes or personal use.
The proposal before the committee would permit keeping not more than five hen — but no roosters, capons or guinea hens — for the sole use of the household in residential districts. The breeding of chickens and sale of eggs would be prohibited. Nor could chickens be slaughtered on the premises. Chickens would be kept in coops placed in rear or side yards at least 10 feet from the residence and 20 feet from any lot line. Chickens would not be allowed to roam free and manure, not more than one cubic yard, would be stored in a closed container.
City Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6), who farms in Gilford, warned that chickens would be a bad fit in residential neighborhoods. The manure is not a good thing," he said, explaining that it is laced with ammonia, smells to high heaven and sticks to the feet. "You can't get rid of the smell," he warned. Chickens, he added, would attract varmints — weasels, foxes, coyotes and rats. Wondering why people would want to keep chickens, he said that without roosters, the hens would lay no eggs. "You can buy eggs at the supermarket for less than it will cost to raise chickens to lay them," he remarked.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) was troubled that the task force was dealing with chickens rather than addressing the signage ordinance, which is also part of its immediate charge. The signage ordinance, he noted, hinders development in the city, which he stressed has a "vulnerable tax base." The Planning Board, Lipman said, "needs to prioritize."
As written the definition of agriculture makes no distinction between commercial and personal uses. In revising the ordinance a definition of "garden" as "the growing of flowers, fruits or vegetables" for personal consumption but not for commercial sale would be added. Gardens would be allowed throughout the city in all zoning districts.
The committee consists of three members of the ZBA — Steve Bogert, the chairman, Suzanne Perley and Michael Foote — three members of the Planning Board — Bill Contardo, Larry Guild and Jay Tivnan — and three members of the public — Steve Weeks, Sr., John Moriarty and Joe Driscoll, Jr.