Residents oppose chickens

Published 10:35 am Friday, August 11, 2017

Once again, the topic of residential chickens has proven its ability to draw a crowd in Windsor. Several residents spoke at the council meeting on Tuesday regarding changes to the town’s backyard poultry ordinance, which was recently recommended by the Planning Commission; the council also received seven letters from townspeople on the matter.

This time, however, all who chose to speak advocated against allowing residential chickens in town, and the numerous speakers who had spoken in favor of the ordinance at the Planning Commission’s meetings this summer were either silent or not in attendance, leaving council confused as to the majority’s public opinion.

“I was at the last two planning commission meetings and everyone I saw speak at a public forum was in favor of the ordinance,” said Councilman Tony Ambrose. “Since that time, everyone I’ve spoken with is vehemently opposed to it. Up until that point, I had not heard anyone speak publicly about it except in favor of it.”

Residents who spoke on the matter were Robert Claud, Sam Askew and Robert Beale. Claud felt the language of the proposed changes to the ordinance was still vague and open to individual interpretation, and said that he had spoken with multiple residents he termed “the silent majority,” who did not want chickens in town.

“It’s very hard to get the silent majority to come to council meetings,” he said.

Askew said that he felt chicken excrement and the resulting flies would be a problem for neighbors whenever a breeze blew, and that chickens did not provide any benefit for the neighbors of their owners.

Beale also expressed concerns regarding the smells resulting from the keeping of chickens and potential health issues the chickens could cause.

He also  thought the disposal of chicken waste could potentially increase the town’s overall tonnage for trash collection, potentially resulting in higher costs.

“I sit on the Planning Commission and I’ll be the first to say that when it was first brought up, I didn’t want chickens and nobody in my neighborhood wanted chickens,” said Councilman N. Macon Edwards III, discussing the comments made by residents. “Once I found out that there were people who were interested in it, and the county pushed the issue, I felt we needed to go back and address it. I thought we came up with a compromise and came back with something that we can live with.”

Councilman Durwood Scott said that several townspeople had approached him prior to the meeting and had said they were against chickens, but that he felt that the council should proceed with a public hearing on the changes to determine if those sentiments were reflective of the town’s majority.

Councilman Walter Bernacki said he felt the Planning Commission had done its due diligence in coming up with a reasonable ordinance, which would give latitude to both those who wanted chickens and neighbors who did not want chickens near their properties, and refuted Beale’s claim that chicken waste would significantly increase the town’s trash collection tonnage.

“If you do the multiplication — I looked it up so I know — dog fecal matter weighs 40 times more than fowl, so your dog is contributing 40 times more to our tonnage than a chicken,” he said.

Ultimately, the council voted unanimously with one absent to schedule a public hearing on the changes to the ordinance for their meeting on Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to leave the town’s $500 cap on water bill refunds for residents as is despite a recent citizen complaint regarding a $2,300 water bill resulting from a leak. Town Manager Michael Stallings said that the town’s utility staff had determined that the leak and subsequent high water bill had already occurred by the time the resident had requested that his water be shut off, and that staff was not convinced that there had been any delay in the town’s response, as the resident suggested during last month’s council meeting. Stallings added that the man’s bill for that month would be $1,800 with the $500 credit applied, despite his normal bill being $25.

They also voted 4-1 to hire Desiree Urquhart, a resident of Windsor and the director of grant writing for Paul D. Camp Community College, at a rate of $75 per hour up to $3,000 to secure grants for various town projects such as the Windsor gym-turned Town Center.

They also voted unanimously to declare three Windsor Police Department vehicles as surplus upon receipt of the new vehicles purchased last month, and to appropriate $2,565 from the WPD’s asset forfeiture fund to the town’s general fund operating budget to cover the remaining cost of new body armor for the police department not covered by last month’s JAG grant. Stallings explained that the WPD’s asset forfeiture fund is the money the police department has seized from individuals they have arrested. State law allows these funds to only be used for the purchase of certain items, and this is one such purchase.

The council further authorized the police department, upon receipt of the new vehicles, to donate one of the surplus vehicles, a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria, to the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Department for use as a spare vehicle.

Their final action council took before going into closed session was to authorize Stallings to put a request for proposal out to engineering firms for an annual services contract. The contract would specify that the chosen firm would be the first to receive future engineering contracts with the Town of Windsor.