It’s been more than a year since Westbrook’s Zoning Board of Appeals told Bob Ledoux the chickens he kept at his Chestnut Street home had to go.

Though the city put a hold on enforcing the board’s recommendation, allowing Ledoux to keep his chickens for the time being, the City Council will address the issue again Monday.

After being vetted in meetings, workshops and public hearings by the Zoning Board, the Planning Board and the City Council, the matter comes before the council Committee of the Whole at a meeting at 7 p.m. in room 114 at the high school. And for the second time, the Planning Board is making a recommendation to the council – the same one it made in May and the same one that was rejected.

Councilor Drew Gattine said he sees the situation as a disagreement between neighbors that “snowballed into an issue.”

“It’s a long, dragged-out deal that’s costing the taxpayers money,” Ledoux said.

Two complaints against Ledoux and Mark Leclair, who keeps bees at his home down the street from Ledoux, forced the city to face the question of what animals are appropriate in densely populated residential districts.

Before the two complaints, ordinances didn’t include language saying what kinds of animals could be kept in residential zones, although rural residential zones allow for farming activities. According to City Administrator Jerre Bryant, there were no problems until the city received the complaints.

The Planning Board’s recommendation for an ordinance change is designed to allow chickens and bees in residential areas provided the homeowner meets certain lot-size requirements, standards of practice and goes to the Planning Board for a special exception permit.

According to Gattine, after receiving this same recommendation in May, the council sent it back to the Planning Board, because it was “too restrictive.” And Gattine hasn’t changed his mind.

He said Tuesday he’d “have a hard time” supporting the same ordinance that has already come to the council. Gattine said he thinks hobby farms should be allowed in all areas of the city with the same provisions regarding noise, odor and lot sizes.

“I think allowing that activity is an asset to the city and shouldn’t be too restrictive,” said Gattine.

He thinks permitting only chickens and bees in certain zones and only as a special exception, which would require the resident to go to the Planning Board, “seems a little over the top.”

Ledoux agrees. In fact, he doesn’t even think there should be a minimum lot size.

“It’s common sense,” he said. “If you can properly care for 20 chickens, you should have 20 chickens.”

Ledoux believes that if there is a complaint from the neighborhood, it’s the job of the code enforcement officer to assess the situation and decide if there is a problem.

Though Ledoux has gotten rid of his last group of chickens because they slowed down in producing eggs, he plans on getting another batch of day-old chicks this spring. Because he has a 10,000-square-foot lot – the smallest parcel on which hobby farms would be allowed – he can have no more than six chickens, which means fewer friends and family will be getting the free fresh eggs they’ve come to expect.

Though Ledoux, who has kept eight to 10 chickens at his home for more than a decade, disagrees with the ordinance, he said he will abide by whatever restrictions are set.

“I’m not out to break the law,” said Ledoux.

Leclair, who said he helped the city write up the rules on keeping bees, isn’t too concerned about having to get rid of his four hives, which produce honey for him and his family and help pollinate the whole neighborhood.

“I’m confident that I’ll at least be able to keep what I have,” said Leclair, who thinks the issue was blown out of proportion.

“It’s not a big deal any longer,” he said.

Farm-animal rules getting another look


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