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Mayor Might Ax Chicken Ordinance

Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung has until tomorrow to decide if he'll sign or veto a recently-passed backyard chicken ordinance.

The phones have been ringing off the hook at Cranston City Hall over the past week and it's not about pensions, taxes or even rats.

No, residents, especially those in Wards 2 and 3, are crowing and crying foul over the recently-passed backyard chicken ordinance.

Carlos Lopez, the city's chief of staff, said today that there have been lots of calls from residents upset about the ordinance. Most of the concerns center around the potential for a boon in the rat population if neighbors begin raising hens and storing food for their egg-layers.

Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung, in an interview, declined elaborating on whether he'll veto the ordinance or not.

Still on the fence, Fung said he's taking the next day to think about the issue, weighing concerns expressed from the countless residents who've called City Hall against assurances from pro-backyard-chicken residents who insist the fears about rats, disease, odors and noise are unfounded.

F on the City Council's meeting last week during which the ordinance was approved.

Fung did say that he's concerned about the additional work that will be required of city employees who, according to the ordinance, will be responsible for inspecting plans for hen houses, issuing permits and enforcing the rules.

"There is an impact on the city," Fung said.

On Twitter, Cranston's State Rep. Arthur B. Handy urged residents to call City Hall to support the measure.

"Tell him responsible chicken keeping is smart," he tweeted.

Other's aren't so enthusiastic.

"nothing like the smell of chickens on a hot and steamy summers day," wrote David C. Meyers on our Facebook page.

Joe Richer December 05, 2012 at 01:17 PM
I am torn by this ordinance. Freedom to farm (even your quarter acre) seems like a simple matter of American liberty to me. But I don't see how we square that with an ordinance that says I can have only one bird feeder due to a rat problem. The council is not being rational.
Gwen Scott December 05, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Hi Joe, Our rat problem is primarily due to the fact that the City does not/has no money to/provide appropriate trash receptacles, people don't wash out their recyclables, and leave their trash bags full of food waste on the sidewalks. The other issue is dogs. People feed their dogs (and cats) outdoors because it makes less mess in the house...guess what? Rats love dog and cat food..disgusting as it sounds, rats love to eat dog poop. Lots of bad smell, fat and protein. I had chickens in my yard for over a year, in Ward 2. No rat or predator issues, because I kept the chickens and their food secured. This issue is really about pets. Which pets are we allowed to own? Can I turn in my neighbor's dogs for barking and keeping me awake all night? Is that appropriate behavior on my part? And just saying, I only have one bird feeder...and I make sure that no food is ever on the ground :)
Joe The Plumber December 05, 2012 at 03:37 PM
You're kidding... right? I,m sure a person looking to buy a home where a neighbor has a chicken coop under the bedroom window would look quite positively on that property. Yes Cranston was once a beautiful Garden City and now it's turning into a ghetto.
Joe The Plumber December 05, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Joe, Zoning and Land Use Ordinances could all be viewed as infringements on our Freedoms. But they are put into law, among other reasons, in order to protect property owners from threats to their health, safety and welfare and have functioned mostly for the public good. Ordinances have also shaped the makeup of neighborhoods and have generally enhance or protected property values by providing long-term stability in land use. Property value stability is also vital to the financial health of a city like Cranston. That is not to mention the additional financial and personnel resources the City will have to employ in order to monitor compliance issues and neighbor disputes. Chickens are dirty, noisy, and stinky and belong on a farm, not in the city.
Mike Farina December 05, 2012 at 04:27 PM
My problem with the Ordinance is that there was no fiscal impact study provided to show how this would tax the city employees through the enforcement of the ordinance. I can also see how some would view it as contradictory to limit bird feeders and allow chickens and there is fear in Wards 2 and 3 that there will be a high penetration of people who will no do this in a responsible way and cause increased issues with rats. The ordinance was well thought out and provides for a straight forward road-map for all people who want to raise chickens in a responsible way but I think there are inherent issues that require additional study and review.
Joe Richer December 05, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I agree with you Gwen - but city has assumed that people won't act responsibly with bird food but will act responsibly with chickens.
Joe Richer December 05, 2012 at 06:17 PM
So, it's all about property values then? Joe, I understand what zoning is for. It can be a useful tool of benefit to all. It can also be used to restrict competition, enforce racial inequality, raise tax revenues, and a myriad of other reasons. The history of zoning is checkered at best. Don't get me wrong, I support zoning but with oversight from the people. I also support my right to paint my house purple with pink polka-dots - which will not increase property values. I don't know what my position is but I don't think it's as simple as you are making it out to be.
Martha Johnsberg December 05, 2012 at 07:24 PM
The woman that ran on the same ticket with you citywide, SARAH KALES LEE, has had an illegal chicken coop in her backyard for years. You and Sepe should have done a study and review of that.
Mike Farina December 05, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Martha, I am not against anyone raising chickens, I never said that, I am not sure what Sepe has to do with this, I think it is great Sarah raises chickens I will defend her right to but it doesn't change the fact that no Fiscal Impact was done with this ordinance hence more research needs to be done to see if there is an impact to the city's payroll expenses and if it is feasible for the dog catcher to take on this added responsibility he never provided testimony to the council on weather he could absorb the responsibility, again more research needs to be done. I ran for council to support and defend the taxpayers and until I see the proper fiscal impact I can't make an informed decision because we don't have all the facts.
Martha Johnsberg December 05, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I voted for you and now you're telling me that you would defend someone who is violated city ordinance by having chickens? I mention Mr Sepe because he is the head of the democratic party and shouldn't he be vetting democratic candidates for office. Ms Lee was elected to the city council, yet she is currently breaking the law by raising chickens in her backyard.
Ed December 05, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Joe... I wouldn't say that it is about the property values. Myself, being a Cranston resident, and tax payer, have a very simple view on this which is two fold: First, when I chose to move to Cranston part of the reason was that there were no chickens or other farm animals in the area I bought into. Now, had that not been the case I would not have purchased my home, plain and simple. Second, because there were no chickens and other farm animals, there was no expense to the city to monitor this situation and enforcement of statues. Now there would be, like it or not because everyone, all inclusive, would not take the proper precautions. That is a fact, some would, granted, but what is the cost of the offenders? And the aggravation to the neighbors? Wait until they have a baby chicken who turns out to be a rooster crowing at 5:00 AM everyday and the child won't let the parents get rid of it? Been there, done that, it gets ugly and costly... Mayor Fung will do it right, believe in him!!!
Gwen Scott December 05, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Martha, There is no City Ordinance prohibiting backyard chickens. Mike knows that. So should you. The ordinance was created to put controls on HOW people raise and keep their chickens. With the Mayor's veto people will just keep on keepin' on, with no controls.
Joe Richer December 06, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Like I said, I am torn on this. Other cities and towns actually have "right to farm acts" and I am not sure there is much trouble over it. I do remember an incident in Mansfield with chicken waste smell, though. Still, If we assume bad intent on everyone's part...much we do today would be outlawed based on what might happen. I think the answer on this might depend on which part of Cranston one's home is in.
Martha Johnsberg December 06, 2012 at 12:21 AM
"Backyard Chickens are Legal in Cranston" is the title of the original article. This was correctly titled. I called the City prior to Council Meeting and chickens were not allowed. It was against zoning. Your statement is incorrect.
Mike Farina December 06, 2012 at 02:21 AM
As I am aware currently it is legal to have chickens as pets the ordinance was developed to have mini flocks on personal property and it was vetoed by the mayor.
Martha Johnsberg December 06, 2012 at 03:11 AM
After reading this article on the Patch and on Projo it seems to me that with statements that "residents can now have one chicken" would mean that prior to the passage of the city ordinance it was not allowed. Now that Mayor Fung has vetoed the ordinance residents are not allowed to have the chickens.
Cranston Resident December 06, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Joe R. Much that is outlawed today is due to the bad intent of people historically. Mostly, we are better off because of that.
Cranston Resident December 06, 2012 at 05:19 AM
What say you Councilman? What is the law now that the Mayor vetoed? Get it right now... It's your job to know the laws..
Mike Farina December 06, 2012 at 12:36 PM
CR, there are ordinances that regulate Farming but I could find none that reference having a chicken as a pet as illegal. A lawyer could argue keeping a chicken is considered farming but my interpretation is that there is no ordinance in the charter making it illegal to have a chicken as a pet.
Alyre Maclure December 06, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I have 3 pet chickens and live in a nice part of Cranston. They work in harmony with my garden eating bugs and insects while providing me with delicious eggs. There waste fortifies my garden and compost pile with nutrients so my vegetables are big and healthy. People have done this for years. I don't sit outside all day, but i haven't seen a rat. My yard and garden is in control. I respect my neighbors and wouldn't do something to reduce their quality of life or property value.
Cranston Matt December 06, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Good for you Alyre! Chickens are a terrific help to gardens, and when they live in well kept coops, are considered to be of a minimal impact to neighbors.
Martha Johnsberg December 06, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Called the City and prior to the enactment of the ordinance farm animals are only allowed on property with 10 or more acres. Now that Mayor Fung has vetoed the ordinance - no chickens. I asked for clarification and chickens are not classified as pets. You need to tell your running mate no more chickens. Going forward it would be helpful if your constituents didn't have to make these phone calls to the city.
Mike Farina December 06, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Martha, if you read the city charter and study the ordinances there is NO LAW against having a chicken as a pet. The only animals classified as unable to be owned by the general public are "Wild Animals". I am not sure with whom you spoke with the city but I state again there is NO LAW on the city's books that says a person can not have a chicken. You need over 10 acres to keep horses, cows, swine and other large farm animals but there is no ownership restrictions for fowl, birds, rabbits, ferrets and certain reptiles. Please refer to this link with the city charter to review for yourself. http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=16303
Martha Johnsberg December 07, 2012 at 05:07 PM
If you are raising chickens for eggs, which is the argument for this ordinance, then that is farming. If you buy a couple of chickens for pets then that is a different story.
Cranston Resident December 08, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Pet!?!?! Have you ever seen a chicken fetching a frisbee? It's quite a sight! On the other hand if the chicken lays one egg.... that's farming.
Cranston Resident December 08, 2012 at 12:58 AM
If you read the ordinance, it says 10 acres is required in an A80 zone to raise animals. Not "Large animals", just "animals. That my dear councilor includes chickens. In other sections of the ordinance, it speaks to specific types of animals such as dogs and cats and horses, but never includes or excludes chickens from the laws. I would suggest Councilor, that you get som help from attorneys. Don't try to interpret the ordinances as you wish they were.
Cranston Resident December 08, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Alyre: "But those chickens are my pets. They even have names, Red, Bandit, and Killer" Cranston Chicken Police: "Sorry Ms. Maclure you are going to have to eat those chickens......Or come with me to lockup..."
Alyre Maclure December 08, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Peanut paisley and Zulu actually and you should see them run. I am male btw. Perhaps I should get a horse then.
Gina December 08, 2012 at 02:09 AM
I would think that a chicken (or a few chickens) would not be any different from any other outside pet if it is their food bringing rats that is concerning people. As far as property values, I agree with Gwen that it is trending for more affluent people to have backyard chickens. It might even be a draw for some as long as people are regulated properly.
Mike Farina December 08, 2012 at 12:53 PM
CR, read the charter were not lawyers but a case can be made that chickens are pets like other small animals but that doesn't change the fact that the current city charter makes no mention of chickens in either the animals section or the farming zoning restrictions section. However horses, cows and swine are mentioned as restricted without 10 acres.

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