Planning wrangles with issue of poultry

Published 3:02 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The subject was chickens.

On Wednesday, the Planning Commission was first presented with a public hearing about allowing poultry to be raised in the A-1 Agricultural District. Walter Bernacki of Johnson Avenue was the only speaker and he recommended that the panel approve the amendment.

Though he doesn’t have farmland himself, Bernacki said he believes it would give farmers an option to to raise money in years when crops aren’t doing so well; no one spoke against the matter.

The amendment would allow chickens to be raised in A-1 land that’s at least five acres large and pens are at a minimum of 50 feet from the nearest property line to a lot or tract.

The issue of an outright ban was considered, but commissioner Glynn Willis referred to the Right to Farm act of 1995. Essentially, a government cannot pass unreasonable restrictions on farming, said Planning and Zoning Administrator Dennis Carney.

Ultimately, the board felt the amendment was reasonable for a town of Windsor’s size and recommended approval to council.

Related to that issue was discussion and consideration of a proposed zoning ordinance amendment regarding chickens and pot-bellied pigs in residential districts.

This would allow no more than 10 chickens — but no roosters — at any one time and roaming would not be allowed. The pens are to be kept clean and under the owner’s control.

Bernacki acknowledged to having a few chickens on his property, but based on an anonymous complaint, he was found to be in violation of existing town code.

Edwards asked how would the cleanliness aspect be enforced and what’s the criteria for it.

George Stubbs, who in the past has expressed disapproval of residential poultry, said,

“If you go in one area, then someone’s going to come along and ask for rabbits. You can continue, etc. This has been round and round several times. Goats, rabbits, ferrets. We’re opening a door here that could go a long way to what someone consider a pet.”

Wallace Brittle, town attorney, noted that poultry is not chickens only.

Carney said that Animal Control would not handle the matter, but it would be a police matter to enforce, if feasible.

Bernacki invited those present to witness how well his daughter treats her pet. Together, he and his child researched rules about the issue in localities, such as Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

Willis said it would be interesting to know town council’s input, and wondered if any members are also getting input from the public.

Brown suggested Bernacki speak to council, which could then direct planning.

Ultimately, planning recommended that matter be taken to council for discussion next month.

In other business, the commissioner amended the bylaws in keeping with the change in election dates for council or the mayor. The proposal read: “For terms ending after June 30, 2017, appointments shall be made for a four-year term ending on Jan. 1.

Carney confirmed this was done for the purpose of keeping both town council members and planning commissioners on the same schedule.

N. Macon Edwards III nominated Bennie Brown to continue serving as chairman, to which he agreed. In turn, he proposed Leonard Marshall to be vice chairman, and he also consented; the commission unanimously approved the nominations.