Tonawanda News

March 29, 2012

Updated chicken ordinance likely

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

— — It appears the North Tonawanda Common Council will soon vote in favor of continuing to allow residents to keep chickens on their property.

A lengthy discussion took place this week, with most members of the council tentatively backing a measure modeled after a 2009 initiative in the City of Buffalo.

The city does have an ordinance currently in place that dates back to the 1950s, which permits residents to have chickens in their yards, but the issue was not brought to the council’s attention for decades. There also is no longer a local agency in place obligated to look after the issue, should residents attempt to get a permit.

Until recently that hasn’t mattered. But now a resurgence in urban gardening and the keeping of chickens has sparked a local debate.

To the council’s knowledge, only one North Tonawanda resident has expressed interest in keeping chickens on their property, though Mayor Rob Ortt said he’s received correspondence from several other residents who have backed the idea since the issue has gone public.

“I was surprised,” he said, “They thought it would be a good idea.”

The council did voice concerns as to how they would revamp the city ordinance, what rules that would entail and how it would be enforced, though most agree they would support an updated ordinance modeled after a Buffalo template.

Niagara County is also considering adopting Buffalo’s codes, according to city Attorney Shawn Nickerson.

“They really had no procedure in place to address this either,” he said.

That would include a ban on roosters and slaughterhouses, limiting residents to five chickens per property, require the consent of neighbors on either side of their property and initiate a yearly renewal process.

“The neighbors may be in favor of it now but hate it later,” noted Alderman-At-Large Malcolm Needler. “I’d like to make this as stringent as possible.”

Nickerson said there is a possibility that the council would make an updated ordinance stricter than Buffalo’s. Those conversations will take place in the next few weeks, with a vote expected at an April 17 meeting.

Alderwoman-At-Large Nancy Donovan said she is most concerned about the city’s ability to enforce the code.

Third Ward Alderman Eric Zadzilka said he was worried that vermin may become a problem should the keeping of chickens become widespread. However, despite public attention given to the issue, Buffalo has a record of only five residents who subscribe to having the fowl on their property.

“I like the Buffalo ordinance,” Zadzilka added. “I looked it over and it’s pretty rigorous.”