Isle of Wight board gives chickens a home

Published 9:55 am Friday, March 24, 2017

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors recently voted unanimously to re-enact sections of the Isle of Wight County Code permitting residents to keep and raise chickens on residential zoned properties following numerous comments in support of the ordinance during a recent public hearing.

The ordinance, known in the code as Appendix B, Zoning: Article V, Supplementary Use Regulations Section 5-5002, specifies that county residents residing on land zoned rural residential, village center, neighborhood conservation, suburban estate, suburban residential, and only in conjunction with an occupied single-family residence, are permitted to keep and raise chickens.

The ordinance mandates that residents construct a predator-proof shelter that is thoroughly ventilated and provides adequate sun and shade protection and can be easily cleaned, located in the back of the residential structure, and that all chickens shall be kept in the shelter and have their wings clipped. It also mandates a maximum of six chickens per property, no roosters, no accumulation of litter or odors that would diminish the rights of adjacent property owners, and no commercial selling of eggs or chickens for meat.

The initial draft of the ordinance to be re-enacted specified that residents who wish to keep chickens obtain a zoning permit but Newport District Supervisor William McCarty was opposed to charging residents a zoning fee, so the ordinance was amended at the suggestion of Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning Richard Rudnicki to change the word “permit” to “waiver” to eliminate the fee.

Speakers during the public hearing on the chicken ordinance included John Denius, Arlynn Guertin and Kimberly Harrison.

“I am for the chickens in the residential area; I have them myself and I found out the hard way that I wasn’t supposed to have them, so I had to get rid of them,” Denius said. “My kids love their chickens and we like the eggs that they produce for us.”

“I’m [also] here to speak on behalf of the chickens,” Guertin said. “We had 12 chickens last year. Something got into the coop and killed all but one and I balled like a baby, and I was in the Marine Corps. They’re pets. Looks like I kind of missed the boat on the number of chickens because I now have 15 so if we can increase the number that would be great.”

The board also voted unanimously to approve its capital improvement program and

to purchase a parcel of property in Zuni adjacent to a church to use to relocate the town’s well, which is currently in a flood zone, following public hearings on both topics at which no one spoke for or against either proposal.

The board then re-discussed Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton’s request for $10 million in debt, repayable over 20 years, to fund the division’s proposed career and technical education renovations at Smithfield and Windsor high schools. They ultimately voted unanimously to hold a public hearing at their next meeting on a $7.9 million loan, repayable over no more than 14 years.

“I don’t know that I would necessarily see that, 20 years is a long time to stretch out that type of money. The board knows my concerns in wanting to have a memorandum of understanding so that any funding going towards CTE is used for exactly that,” McCarty said. “I don’t know that $10 million is doable but I feel that a lower amount such as $8 million over a lower period of time could be a meeting in the middle.”

He added that $8 million would take the county’s debt from 3.3 percent to 3.4, still under the 4 percent debt to equity ratio under which the County’s policy mandates the Board’s debt be kept.

Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice reiterated his comments from the previous meeting that art courtyards, recording studios and media centers would not produce technically certified employees and suggested a loan of approximately $6 million over 10 years, paid back at a rate of $700,000 deducted from the division’s funding from the county per year.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said that he felt it was important that the money the division was proposing to reallocate from the Pruden Center says with just CTE programs and not be used for furniture.

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said he didn’t think a flat budget would be enough to deal with unforeseen costs that may occur throughout the implementation of the division’s CTE programs.

“If we’re building new buildings with a flat budget, that’s not going to cut it, you’re going to have expenses with those new buildings,” he said. “I would like to see the program go forward but I don’t think $10 million is going to be the ticket for us so to speak, if we could back it up to around $7 million with the money from Smithfield Foods to complete phase one of the program. If we offer five programs at Smithfield and don’t offer those programs at Windsor and we have students at Windsor who want to take those programs we’re going to have to transport those students to Smithfield and that’s going to cost money that’s not in this budget.”

Thornton responded to the Board’s comments, saying that unanticipated costs can occur in any budget and that the school division would just have to make cuts and determine its most important priorities for funding, and said that the plan provided the perfect opportunity to address not only the division’s CTE needs but also upgrades to facilities that have not been changed in 40 years such as the schools’ cafeterias and media centers. He added that if the actual costs of the renovations end up being more than what the division is currently projecting, the school board would cut something from the proposal rather than coming back to the Board of Supervisors and asking for more money.

“In business, we try to provide the best environment in which our workers can perform, but we forget our schools, and say if I had to live with it, you do too,” he said.

The board concluded by voting unanimously to take on an additional $410,000 for the county’s Debt Service Fund, $314,000 for their Economic Development Incentive Program, and $40,000 for their Emergency Services Department.