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Backyard chickens create flap in East Aurora as officials eye moratorium on permits

Backyard chickens create flap in East Aurora as officials eye moratorium on permits

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Chickens have been clucking in backyard coops in East Aurora since 2010, but some residents are now squawking over their neighbors permit applications to raise the birds.

Village trustees plan to do something about it.

“Chickens are a big thing now. We have 17 families in the village already who are raising chickens,” said Trustee Ernest Scheer. “Now, several other people want chickens, and some neighbors are in an uproar. We want to revisit the code, back up a little bit to review the process.”

An unofficial moratorium on issuing the special permits required to raise chickens will occur after four current applications are processed, said Mayor Peter Mercurio, who tasked village trustees with researching other municipal codes to streamline the process of issuing permits for backyard chicken coops.

Currently, East Aurora Village Code S104-3A prohibits farm animals and bees without a special permit, and adds that residents who obtain a permit must meet certain standards with regard to noise, smell and other issues. Permits are revocable at any time by the Village Board.

The Village of Akron, meanwhile is looking to enact a code that would open the door to chickens, said Jayne DeTine, village clerk.

“Right now, we allow no farm animals in the village. That law would be amended to allow chickens, and then there would be this whole list of regulations, and the permit to obtain,” said DeTine. “A resident requested that the local law be amended to allow chickens in the village, so we’re in the preliminary stages of board review.”

Akron is not alone in prohibiting residential chicken coops. The villages of Orchard Park, Kenmore, Sloan and North Collins do not allow chickens, while Williamsville, East Aurora and Hamburg require permits. Farnham, in the Town of Brant, allows chickens and requires no permit.

Williamsville’s chicken law is modeled on Amherst’s 2013 law allowing chickens. Both laws require coops to be at least 15 feet from any property line with feed stored in secure containers. Permits must be renewed every two years to allow the town to review the performance of chicken keepers. Municipal guidelines regulate food storage, housing, water, sanitation, protection from predators and wild birds.

The federal Department of Agriculture called backyard poultry a “growing trend across the United States” in 2018. In June, the USDA issued updated guidelines for people interested in raising poultry for personal consumption.

In East Aurora, prospective keepers offer varying reasons for wanting to raise chickens, but two are cited most frequently, according to a review of permit applications: the production of fresh eggs and their use as an educational tool for children.

The Canaski family in East Aurora wants to raise chickens to educate their children, ages 7 and 10. The Warren Drive residents also have a large vegetable garden to show their children the meaning of “farm to table.”

“It’s important for us to teach our kids where food comes from. It does not come in plastic,” said Kelly Canaski. “We can’t have pets because I have allergies, but we can get chickens – with a bonus that we can teach our kids how to care for animals and where eggs come from.”

Canaski, 37, and her husband requested to raise six chickens on their permit application, but were told they would be allowed only three birds after objections by some neighbors at a public hearing.

Twelve neighbors responded to postcard notifications from Village Clerk Maureen Jerackas that informed them of the hearing on the Canaskis’ request.

Six were in favor and six were opposed. The opponents questioned whether the chickens would be for personal or business purposes, the aesthetic appeal of a coop and the practice of raising farm animals in a village.

Jennifer Valentine's request for three chickens on her South Street property was approved during the board's meeting on July 20. Six residents from Creekside Park Townhomes on Center Street expressed concern over possible cross-contamination of Valentine's chicken coop and the bird-feeding stations outside their townhomes, among other things. Four other neighbors did not have a problem with Valentine's chicken coop.

In one recent matter involving farm animals, village trustees rejected a request to raise goats.

A temporary permit to house dwarf goats at a South Grove Street home was denied in July 2019. At the same time, the board agreed to a 30-day permit allowing the property owner to house three chickens and two ducks. The owner was planning to move the animals to a small farm under construction in the Town of Darien.

Currently two East Aurora homeowners are waiting for their permit applications to be processed. Ann Margaret Munley wants to raise five chickens in her Park Place backyard. Her public hearing is set for Aug. 3. Brad Rogers, of Ridge Avenue, who requested a permit to raise five chickens, is also awaiting a hearing on Aug. 3.

The increasing interest in backyard chickens stems from the desire for self-sourcing in the wake of Covid-19, and the family activity it involves, said DeTine, the Akron village clerk.

“It’s kind of cool, because chickens are a big deal now,” DeTine said. “Individuals can control something, and know they have some form of food in the difficult situation we’re in today.”

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