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Law sought to allow raising of chickens

The Amherst Town Board has directed the building commissioner and town attorney to draft a new local law allowing homeowners to seek a special-use permit so they can raise chickens in their yards.

In two separate resolutions, four board members requested that a new law be created to expand the number of residential areas that are permitted to raise chickens. Currently, only town residents who live on "suburban-agricultural" lots of at least two acres are permitted to keep chickens, which are considered livestock.

"Hopefully the commissioner will come back with an ordinance that protects the animals and doesn't inconvenience the residents," said Council Member Mark Manna. "In the end, that's what everybody wants."

The move to create a special-use permit follows a campaign by Eggertsville resident Karen Marks to be allowed to keep six egg-laying hens in her backyard. The Markses have had the chickens for a year and were unaware that they were violating town rules until a complaint was made to the town's code enforcement office in February.

Any new permit recommended to the board would need to place limits on the number of hens that a homeowner could raise, set shelter and property setback requirements for a chicken enclosure and forbid roosters. Roosters are not required for hens to lay unfertilized eggs.

Manna's resolution asks that the building commissioner report back to the board within 60 days. A separate resolution by Supervisor Barry Weinstein and Council Members Steven Sanders and Guy Marlette would also require chickens to be raised for noncommercial purposes.

Board members said they were interested in creating a special-use permit instead of a straightforward law allowing chickens because they want the ability for the Zoning Board to refuse permit renewals if a homeowner becomes subject to complaints from neighbors or fails to adhere to odor, noise and sanitation requirements.

In other news, the board:

*Named Ann Terranova, a town senior real estate appraiser, as interim assessor. Terranova was one of two internal candidates interviewed for the position.

Longtime Assessor Harry Williams retired last month. Weinstein said he hopes Terranova will complete the remainder of Williams' term, which expires Oct. 1, 2013. She will earn an annual salary of $78,114.

Meanwhile, Weinstein said Williams is entitled to cash out a portion of his accrued vacation time, which is expected to be between seven and 10 weeks and would equate to at least $15,000. Although Williams is a non-union administrator, the town's policy regarding vacation time payouts for such employees is modeled after the town's CSEA contract.

Williams had asked to be credited with even more vacation time but was denied. When he retired after 25 years as town assessor, he was earning $95,175.

*Named Maria Kondziela, deputy clerk for the Amherst Town Court, as the court's new interim town clerk. She will assume the duties of James Loughran, who retired last month, and will earn $79,286.

*Approved a resolution by Marlette making all town buildings "Smoke Free Zones."

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