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PIGEON CASE IS STILL UP IN THE AIR

The jury is still out on whether a flock of 50 homing pigeons will be able to continue making their home in an East Aurora back yard.

Philip Friot's request for a special village permit that would let him keep housing his homing pigeons in a two-compartment loft in a backyard shed at his Godfrey Terrace home hit a logjam Monday night.

After debating the issue, the Village Board tabled action on Friot's application in a 4-2 vote. A majority of trustees said they they wanted more information on the issue and the pigeons' impact on the neighborhood, which is part of an upscale subdivision, before making a decision.

Trustees Christine Peters and Sara Foster do not favor granting Friot a special permit and were sensitive to concerns raised by a few neighbors who expressed written opposition to the board about the homing pigeons.

"We solicit input from the neighbors. If one has a problem, I think we should take it seriously," Foster said.

Peters said she wouldn't like living next to a bunch of homing pigeons, either.

"Whether it's a farm animal or (something else), I think you need to have a basic respect for your neighbors," she said.

Friot has said he has housed the pigeons for about three years without any complaints from neighbors, though he has acknowledged he has not had a village permit. Friot, who did not attend the board meeting, has defended his hobby, noting that he is a member of the Buffalo Homing Pigeon Association and flies pigeons in competition. Younger birds are released once daily for an hour of exercise, usually at sunrise or dusk.

"I would challenge any complaints of my birds causing a disturbance or nuisance. I take special care not to inconvenience or disturb anyone," Friot said in a May 15 letter to the board.

A recent anonymous complaint to Village Hall about the pigeons prompted village Code Enforcement Officer W. Ross Harbison to require Friot to apply for a permit, said Village Administrator Patrick Richey. Years ago, Friot received a building permit for a toolshed. The village requires special permits for horses, cattle, sheep, swine, poultry, pigeons or other nonhousehold animals. People with three or more dogs also need a special permit.

Mayor John Pagliaccio noted that the village received two letters from neighbors who said they didn't mind the presence of the homing pigeons, and also received two letters in opposition, one unsigned.

Pagliaccio said he drove by Friot's home and is inclined to approve his request with limitations.

"I look at it as a hobby, a different kind of hobby," he said, noting the abundance of bird feeders many residents have and beekeepers looking after their bees.

However, Trustee Lowell Dewey questioned how the village is "going to put conditions on 50 pigeons." "That's not normal to live next to a flock of birds let loose every day in a village," he said.

Trustee Patrick McDonnell, who favors granting permission for the pigeons to remain, said there haven't been any problems in the last three years.

If it was going to be stopped, it should have been done three years ago, he said.

Village officials said that, at the time the tool shed received approval, they weren't certain that pigeons were being housed there.

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