January 31, 2011

Gorham may ease farm-animal limits

A hearing Tuesday will focus on a code change that would allow livestock on smaller in-town lots.

By Beth Quimby bquimby@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

GORHAM — Downtown Gorham residents who have yearned to turn their yards into working farms may finally get the chance.

click image to enlarge

Olivia Proulx, 6, of Gorham reacts to a kiss from Ro-Ro, one of the family’s four Oberhasli goats. The family is hoping to convince the town to change an ordinance that now prohibits livestock on lots smaller than 6 acres. At left is Olivia’s younger sister, Rozalyn.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Rozalyn Proulx, 4, and her family have four goats at their Gorham home, including Sophie, left, and Ro-Ro. Rozalyn’s mother, Ginger Proulx, makes cheese and yogurt from the animals’ milk.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The Town Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a land-use code change that would allow the keeping of livestock in the town's more densely populated neighborhoods.

If adopted, everything from chickens and llamas to goats and bison could be farmed in Gorham's urban residential neighborhoods, where livestock is now banned on lots smaller than 6 acres.

The council will take public comments on the proposal at a 7 p.m. hearing at the municipal center.

The proposal originated in October 2009, after the subdivision of the Proulx family lot at 244 Libby Ave.

Ginger Proulx, who lives there with her husband, James, and their two children, divided the property with other family members.

The division reduced Ginger Proulx's lot size below the threshold required for keeping livestock in the urban residential zone, and suddenly, the family's four goats and flock of chickens were no longer legal.

Proulx said the animals are important members of their household. She uses the goat milk to make cheese and yogurt. Her children are learning to help to take care of them.

"You can have as many dogs as you want, but not goats," she said.

Proulx said her animals have brought the neighborhood together, with people showing up at milking time to watch.

"We are so much closer to our neighbors," Proulx said.

She said she was aware that both Portland and South Portland have recently allowed urban residents to keep chickens.

So the Proulx family asked town officials to consider changing the town's ordinance to allow them to keep their goats and let others keep livestock as well.

The town agreed, and the council's ordinance committee came up with the new proposal. The ordinance would allow the keeping "of small quantities of farm animals in a responsible manner that does not create unreasonable problems for their neighborhoods."

The livestock will have to be secured on the property. Any farm structures must comply with existing setbacks. The animals must be kept in a safe and humane environment and not cause a nuisance to neighbors and the town.

The list of permitted livestock includes cows, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, fowl, rabbits, llamas, alpacas, bison and deer.

So far the proposal has generated little interest, with one or two people showing up at the ordinance committee sessions. Town Manager David Cole said he doesn't expect pigs and bison to start appearing in large numbers on front lawns.

"There probably won't be a whole lot of additional use," said Cole.

Some residents said the proposal makes sense at a time when people are clamoring for fresh, locally grown food.

Doug Carter, who lives off Libby Avenue, said he has no problem with the new ordinance.

"It is good to let people be self-sufficient, as long as they maintain good quality standards," said Carter, whose wife keeps chickens.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com

 

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