Vergennes council still looking at poultry law

VERGENNES — The Vergennes City Council once again on Tuesday chose not to act on a proposed law to regulate poultry within city limits, but inched closer to what such an ordinance could look like.

The latest version presented by Councilors Jill Murray-Killon and David Austin stripped away provisions that other councilors had objected to earlier, such as registration and noise provisions and measures that referred to flock sizes and “discouraged” owning roosters in the city.

But some councilors still didn’t like a requirement that chickens be fenced or otherwise physically caged on owners’ properties, while Councilor Mel Hawley continued to wonder if the entire ordinance was a solution in search of a problem that didn’t require the council’s attention.

“There is a difference between a private nuisance and a public nuisance,” Hawley said. “I don’t believe this is a public nuisance.”

At the same time, Hawley said he could probably live with an ordinance with the changes already made if the fence requirement was also removed, and other councilors appeared willing to move forward with an ordinance — but only if the public had another opportunity to weigh in on it.

Hawley also spoke to that question.

“Have we done a good enough job reaching out to our citizens?” he said, suggesting another public meeting before the council looks at a final draft.

Murray-Killon said, “I actually think that’s a good idea.”

She and Austin agreed to, in Murray-Killon’s words, “take a final stab” at the ordinance before a to-be-announced public meeting and then a council decision. That final look, based on other council comments, would include the removal of the fence provision, but not a requirement that chickens and other poultry would remain on owners’ properties.

Two residents at the meeting asked questions. Janice Bosworth wondered why councilors did not want it to address roosters, saying living next door to one is “not a good thing.”

Austin answered.

“We have a noise ordinance that covers roosters, dogs, chain saws” and more, he said.

Chicken owner Zoe Kaslow said she had been satisfied with the council’s work and the product.

“I feel very well represented by this ordinance,” Kaslow said.

The key provisions of the ordinance the council looked at on Tuesday are:

•  Any poultry kept within the City of Vergennes shall be kept on the property of the owner by use of a structure or enclosure of sufficient design and structural integrity to ensure that any and all poultry shall remain on said property at all times.

•  Owner is to manage the keeping of their animals in a manner that discourages offensive odors from waste (or other causes), attracting vermin and the possibility of disease among domestic and non-domestic animals. This shall include the disposal of any deceased animals in a safe, timely, lawful and hygienic manner.

•  Any violations of Sections 2, 3 and 4 above shall be subject to the imposition of the following fines. Offenses shall accrue based on the calendar year. Fines shall be paid to the City Treasurer:

First offense – $50 fine and resolution of complaint

Second offense – $75 fine and proof of resolution of complaint

Third offense – $100 fine and proof of resolution of complaint

Fourth offense – $150 fine and proof of resolution of complaint

Fifth and subsequent offenses – $300 fine and proof of resolution of complaint

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