Council wary about allowing chickens at apartments

Council wary about allowing chickens at apartments

CUMBERLAND – Opening the coop door to chickens at the Chimney Hill Apartments, 2065 Mendon Road, could set a new precedent elsewhere, say some town officials. They’re now seeking a way to accommodate the wishes of the senior citizens at the complex while also having consistent rules that are fair to everyone in town.

Chimney Hill resident Gladys Reid, speaking to the Town Council Nov. 21, said the four chickens previously kept outside the apartment complex were therapeutic for residents. Many of the elderly residents who don’t have pets of their own loved these chickens, she said, and derived great pleasure taking their grandchildren to visit the creatures.

“These are considered our pets, and all of a sudden they’re gone,” she said.

The chickens were taken away, said Reid, and residents would like to have them back. The birds were confined and let out only once or twice each day, and were not in plain view, she added.

School Committee member Ray Salvatore said his mother lives at Chimney Hill. He spoke favorably to the cleanliness of the chicken coop and the enjoyment the residents had derived from feeding and visiting the chickens. He encouraged council members to “maybe contour something that works for everyone so that these residents can enjoy these pets,” recommending moving it to ordinance subcommittee.

Councilor Bob Shaw explained to Reid that the council would like some time to review proposed zoning language to ensure it doesn’t create a disruption elsewhere. There appeared to be somewhat of a contradiction in the proposed zoning ordinance change, with one line stating that properties with more than one residential unit do not qualify for chickens unless written permission has been granted by the police chief, and another line seeming to open them up to chickens. He also wondered if the chief will need to grant permission in the rare case of a single-family home being located in an R-2 or R-3 zone.

Assistant Solicitor Chris Alger said the intent of the ordinance was that any multi-unit property would have to get written permission from police to house chickens on the property. Any single-family home in zones R-1, R-2 and R-3 would be eligible to have chickens as long as they are kept 25 feet from the property line, he said.

Whatever officials do to help residents is going to spread out to other zones, Shaw said. He added that his hope is that officials can allow chickens at Chimney Hill again, but wants to make sure people elsewhere aren’t disrupted by any unintended consequences.

Shaw said he appreciated representatives from Chimney Hill previously removing the chickens without being asked to after a complaint about them.

Councilor Scott Schmitt said he’s concerned that the proposed zone change abdicates responsibility for zoning matters to the chief of police, when such matters are currently in the purview of the council. He said he’s sympathetic to anyone who wants or needs a therapy animal, but is concerned about approving a townwide zone change to make an exception for one property when it could impact every other R-2 and R-3 property in the town that can meet space and lot line requirements.

Schmitt made the motion to move the matter to the ordinance subcommittee for consideration at the Dec. 19 council meeting, and the public Nov. 21 public hearing was extended to that date.

Paul Cromwell, who lives and works at the apartment complex for elderly and disabled residents off Mendon Road, told the council in September that no one had previously had an issue with the chickens at Chimney Hill until one woman “who was apparently having a bad day” complained about the fowl and asked if they were legal residents at the complex

Cromwell said at the time that he voluntarily got rid of the chickens, which had been kept in an enclosure alongside the housing facility, after town officials said they couldn’t legally provide a letter to the Cumberland Housing Authority stating the birds could live there.

Comments

... has apparently flown the coop.... chickens in an apartment complex?? I doth say, I smell something fowl! Only in Rhode Island... unreal.. somewhere Colonel Sanders is bemused.

Have all the other problems in the town been solved?

sexist and patronizing....Paul said "until one woman “who was apparently having a bad day” complained. Hope this issue is resolved in a respectfully adult manner, legally, with common sense indeed, and that the Christmas spirit prevails.