Village Hall comes alive with discussion about barnyard animals

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:51

The deadline for written comment is Aug. 1 Warwick - Dozens of residents came out to Village Hall on June 18 for the public hearing about the keeping of chickens and other fowl in the Village of Warwick. Attendance spilled into the foyer, and it was standing room only at the hearing to allow the board to change the 1976 local law that prohibits keeping fowl, rabbits and pigeons in the village. Although some stood vehemently against the idea of backyard chickens, others viewed it as another way for the village to be a bellwether for a future wherein vegetable gardens replace lawns and families must fend increasingly for themselves. The board is seeking to amend the local law by including a special use permit for a backyard chickens pilot program together with Cornell Cooperative Extension. Lucy Joyce, acting executive director of the Orange County extension, attended the hearing in place of Audrey Lynn Reith, who has been working with Raphael Cox and the village during due diligence. “Tonight we are discussing taking a local law and giving the board the flexibility to create a pilot program for fact-finding,” said Village of Warwick mayor Michael Newhard. Simpler times “We should have hung onto it in the first place,” said Lisa Kingman about the time when raising chickens in the backyard was not against the law. Many spoke in favor of allowing the pilot program because of concerns about food insecurity and finding sustainable food sources in a changing world where fuel is expensive, and living close to the land will again determine who eats well or even at all. Although others also spoke of a return to self-sufficiency, others wanted assurances that the board would put into place clear zoning, rules and regulations for keeping backyard chickens. “We are committed to having zero negative impacts on immediate neighbors,” said Joyce, who endorses management practices for raising chickens in all seasons. “There’s not a lot of building going on right now,” said the mayor about the amount of time it would take for the building inspector to enforce the local law if amended. Yet Cox’s immediate neighbors oppose any pilot. “We take great pride in our property, are worried chickens will lower our property values and chickens were on the property before the public hearing,” said Linda Matheson, who moved to Warwick 27 years ago with her husband. And Newhard was clear that approval of a pilot was not a promise to Cox to run it. Others argued against bringing chickens into a village surrounded by farmland. “There are farmers who would love to have (Cox) on their farm,” said former trustee Eileen Patterson. Sarah Whirling was concerned that unwanted chickens would stretch further the humane society’s resources. “Chickens make good soup birds,” said Joyce, and productive layers can be sold off. “I want to become a farmer and live here all my life,” said Cox who continues to work with Reith at the extension’s office in Middletown. And his supporters spoke of the young man’s character and passion. “Give the kid a chance,” said Joe Smith, whose daughter participates in Future Farmers of America along with Cox. Bob Singer keeps 40 chickens in a 700-square-foot facility in the Village of Florida, a larger operation than either the board or extension considers appropriate for a residential backyard pilot. Although village lots range in size from tiny to multiple acres, Joyce could not say what the minimum square footage requirements would be for a pilot program. The mayor thanked everyone for the input, and kept the public hearing open until Aug. 1 for written comment. Selling Surplus Water Newhard is in discussions with Worobey Transport of Preston Park, Pa., to purchase water from the village, which currently has a surplus. The village would be a secondary provider to the company, which hauls between 50,000 and 100,000 gallons of water used to test for leaks in the gas lines being installed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. The board agreed that each fill-up could generate as much as $1,000 for the water department. Village attorney Michael Meth cautioned the board to reserve the ability to turn off the supply should a need arise. The board is also discussing creating a bulk delivery water rate that would be lower than the commercial rate. In other news: The board authorized payment of approved and audited bills totaling $142,094.45. The village has started a ticketing campaign with police to crack down on cars parked in no parking areas. The board approved Arthur Wendel’s request to carry over of five vacation days. The Warwick Merchants Guild apologized for using the wrong spray paint to stencil the sidewalks at its recent Sidewalk Sale. The product turned out to be marking paint, which the DPW will remove using graffiti remover and its new hot water power. The guild will reimburse the village for labor and materials. Linda Card, Elise Chwan and Stephen Kitar each have written letters to the board expressing interest in becoming a member of the Architectural Review Board, which has one opening. The Grand Street repaving and reclamation project is to begin in two weeks. The board scheduled a public hearing on the parking of large vehicles for Aug. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Warwick Village Hall, 77 Main St., and the next regular meeting of the board will follow.