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Burton may cluck, but it won't gobble
Burton may cluck, but it won't gobble
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
If Village Council accepts a recommendation made by the Burton planning commission last week, residents may be introduced to a new kind of neighbor.
The planning commission voted 4-1 to recommend that residents be allowed to keep up to four chickens, but no roosters, on their property.
Commission member Karolyn Squire voted against the measure, saying she believes it was inappropriate given the small lots in the village.
The action was prompted by South Cheshire Street resident Dee Holt, who asked the village to consider lifting the prohibition on keeping chickens in residential districts.
Mrs. Holt said, during the village's early days, virtually all residents kept chickens on their property. She said the village has a long history of supporting agriculture with the Great Geauga County Fairgrounds and 4-H programs. She said it's also a question of fairness, because residents are allowed to keep rabbits.
Mrs. Holt said she wants to keep the birds as pets, or more like pets with benefits. She said she lives a vegetarian lifestyle and will supplement her diet with eggs from her chickens. "I love chickens," she said. "I'm an animal lover."
Many major cities allow the keeping of chickens, she said, including Manhattan. They require little space and are quiet, without roosters, she said.
Mrs. Holt said she received eight letters of support from her neighbors.
She said she plans to buy a $1,600 chicken coop to keep them. "It's going to be nice," she said.
Cady Hutchinson, village zoning inspector, said the village's code offers no definition of agriculture, although the state code definition includes poultry. She said the village only permits agriculture in special districts, such as the one for Century Village.
Mrs. Holt said she lives just four houses down from Century Village.
Mrs. Hutchinson said other communities allow chickens in residential areas with specific setbacks. South Russell Village permits them as long as they are kept 50 feet from a street and 100 feet from any dwelling. In Chardon, it is 50 feet from both.
Commission member James Koster said he researched the matter, including a 2008 research paper by the University of New Mexico. He said no two communities were found to be alike, although all addressed such issues as the number of birds, whether roosters were allowed and restrictions on slaughtering the animals.
"Is this really an agricultural issue?" Mr. Koster asked. "In my mind, it's not."
He said he believes chickens should be permitted and a permit should be required. He said he does not want birds slaughtered in the village, nor should people be allowed to erect signs noting their sale.
He said the village should look at the noise factor, lighting, violations and permits.
Although the commission looked at distances from neighboring homes, commission member Curt Johnson said he believes a 100-foot distance would virtually eliminate the chance for people to keep chickens. "It would rule out 80 percent of the lots in town," he said.
Mr. Koster said the village should prohibit keeping of chickens in front yards. He said the guinea hens kept in Burton years ago had free range throughout the village.
Although officials expressed concern for the apartments or condominiums in the village, Law Director Todd Hicks said condo associations often have rules and regulations that would likely outlaw chickens. He advised the commission to concentrate on the criteria for allowing the birds, if it wishes to permit them.
Mayor Thomas Blair Sr. said potential problems could arise with multifamily housing if one resident wanted them and the neighbor didn't.
Mr. Hicks said allowing the chickens in such situations would require the approval of the property owner, not individual tenants. He said restricting them to single-family properties would eliminate those concerns.
Jennell Dahlhausen, village deputy administrative assistant, asked whether legislation for chickens would open the door to turkeys or goats being kept.
Mr. Hicks said the legislation specific to chickens would "not open the floodgates" to other animals.
He said the village also is not liable for any problems or damage caused by chickens.
The commission agreed to set the perimeter requirement at 50 feet from another dwelling and 20 feet from any property line. Also agreed to was a $25 permit and $10 for each annual renewal.
Mr. Koster said he liked the idea of an annual review, because the village could address any complaints that arise at that time.
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