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October 13. 2012 9:12PM

Owners denied variance to keep chickens as pets

MANCHESTER — Two chicken owners in the city hoping to keep their birds were denied variances by the Zoning Board of Adjustment at a meeting last week.

Alice Ward, who said she keeps nine chickens at her 1667 Union St. home, said she doesn’t know what she will do with her feathered friends. She said she is considering selling or giving away the birds.

“I’m just waiting for a letter from the city to see about the time frame and trying to work out what to do,” she said. “We don’t know at this point. We’re befuddled at this point.

“I wasn’t happy,” she said of the ZBA decision.

ZBA member Kevin McCue said the board’s decision in the cases of Ward and Tim Soucy, who wants to keep 15 hens at his 239 Wells St. home, was about adhering to the city’s current rules on livestock such as chickens, which say that a landowner needs a minimum lot of an acre, plus a quarter-acre for each subsequent animal.

“The regulation is clear as to the definition of what livestock are, and chicken is livestock,” he said.

Ward and Soucy had each said that their families view the chickens as pets, but McCue said he did question the reference.

“That’s a little extreme for pets,” he said.

He compared the number of chickens in question to a person having the same number of cats or dogs.

“Having nine or 15 cats or dogs, that would be quite a few,” he said.

However, he said, the board’s decision came about not because of the pet argument, but because of the law.

“The rationale (for the decision) is that it’s not permitted,” he said. “In these particular cases, we didn’t feel they met the criteria for an exclusion.”

The matter has been referred to the Administration Committee of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Committee Chairman Phil Greazzo said city staff have been asked to present potential rules changes to the committee, possibly as soon as Tuesday’s meeting.

He said he is not opposed to the idea of allowing homeowners to keep chickens, calling the current acreage rule “unattainable.”

“I think there could be some changes, sure,” he said. “I don’t see why we couldn’t change the rules for certain lot types and sizes.”

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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