Maplewood to Introduce Ordinance Allowing Backyard Chickens at Oct. 4 Meeting
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 • 10:43am
MAPLEWOOD, NJ – “Tell me what I can do to change your mind,” Maplewood resident Suz Stone tearfully pleaded after the Township Committee voted 3-2 Tuesday night to introduce an ordinance at its Oct. 4. meeting to allow backyard chickens.
Also planned for the Oct. 4 meeting are public hearings on ordinances that would raise jitney and commuter parking fees, effective Jan. 1. The annual jitney pass would cost $85, up from $80, and the annual combined jitney and parking permit would increase from $215 to $225. In addition, the commuter parking fee would increase $10, to $210.
Committee Marlon Brownlee said the increase will affect roughly 300 jitney pass holders, 500 commuters with parking permits, and about 200 residents with a combined jitney pass and parking permit.
The transportation ordinances passed on first reading 5-0 without discussion, but the Committee was divided on a one-year pilot project to permit 15 homeowners to keep three hens in a backyard chicken coop. Committeemen Brownlee and Gerald Ryan voted against moving ahead, based in part on the opposition of Stone and others.
Stone was part of a group of neighbors from Summit and Midland avenues who turned out Tuesday night. Their neighborhood is battling a rat infestation, and residents fear introducing chickens will make it worse.
Fred Profeta Jr., deputy mayor for the environment, said that several changes were made to the draft to address issues raised previously. The number of hens permitted was reduced from five to three, the ordinance specifies chicken feed cannot be left in the coop overnight, the coop and run must have trays to trap feces, and those who want to participate in the pilot program will have to obtain approval from their neighbors.
Opponents also questioned the last provision. “We’re pitting neighbor against neighbor,” Lee Navlen said. “Maplewood is divisive enough as it is.” He added, “I’m not going to let my neighbors have chickens.”
Two residents spoke in support of backyard chickens. New Maplewood resident Helen Donaldson spoke of her experience raising chickens in suburban Australia. “The chickens were pets,” she said. “My children were very attached to them.” Reesa Salomon, who was chairwoman of the committee that initially proposed the pilot program, said the project is part of a trend toward locally produced food.
Jason Hackett responded, saying, “You can’t produce a dozen eggs cheaper than you can get them at Whole Foods.”
In other action, the Committee:
-- heard a report on problems at DeHart Field from Recreation Director George Rague. He said that there have been some issues with drainage and compaction. In addition, the township is meeting with the sod contractor this week to discuss problems with netting in the sod.
-- received an update from Vice Mayor Kathleen Leventhal about Friday’s football game, the first played under the lights. The township is working with police and the school district on parking and crowd control.
-- scheduled a community meeting on Oct. 7 to hear a presentation about development plans for the police station property at 125 Dunnell Road.