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Manchester residents, aldermen squawk over chicken proposal

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 17. 2014 10:58PM

MANCHESTER — Several residents and aldermen on Tuesday spoke out against a proposed ordinance that would allow residents to raise chickens in the city, raising concerns that ranged from economic discrimination to the possibility of a chicken attack.

The purpose of Tuesday’s meeting was to give the public a chance to weigh in on the ordinance, which, after undergoing much review and revision over the past two years, received preliminary approval from the aldermen in the spring.

The ordinance still must be reviewed by another committee before it goes into effect.

The ordinance would allow residents who live on parcels of a half-acre or larger to have up to six hens; residents living on smaller lots would have to seek a variance from the city zoning board. Most lots in Manchester are smaller than a half-acre, or 21,780 square feet.

Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne noted that the ordinance would not apply to most properties, especially in his center-city ward. “Making it a half-acre discriminates against the rest of the residents,” he said.

“I’ve lived with chickens, so I know them quite well. When we lived in a three-family, they had chickens downstairs. The lot was 50 by 100 feet, and nobody said a word in those days... It’s a pet, like a bulldog.”

But resident Andy Verville, a former alderman and longtime member of the zoning board, said allowing chickens would have adverse effects for neighboring property owners. He recalled how decades ago, when Ward 8 was still largely rural, residents would complain about livestock.

“If you were to put a house up for sale and you had a chicken coop at the next house, would I buy your house? No way,” he said, adding, “I consider a pet something you can take in the house, put on your knee and watch TV with.”

Alderman-At-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur raised a number of potential problems, such as the ordinance’s restriction against the slaughtering of chickens. He wondered if this meant one couldn’t kill a chicken that was sick — or in self defense.

“Are people allowed to defend themselves from an attack by a chicken?” he asked Planning Director LaFreniere.

“I could not speak to that,” LaFreniere replied.

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