The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Homeowner withdraws application to keep chickens


By ANTHONY R. MANCINI

A Bedford resident withdrew her application to keep four chickens on her property that is not zoned for keeping fowl after zoning officials said that the application would be denied at an April 3 public hearing.

Pauline Schneider had previously appealed to Bedford’s zoning board in February to receive approval to continue to keep her four chickens on her property on South Road, however, two board members were absent then, Andrea Schaefer and Meredith Black, so Ms. Schneider decided to go before the full board in April, which is an applicant’s right. The town considers Ms. Schneider’s property to be within a quarter-acre zone, the town’s smallest single-family residential designation, despite her property being a third of an acre. Town code prohibits keeping any fowl in a quarter-acre zone.

Zoning chairman Peter Michaelis said that his board could not approve Ms. Schneider’s application because she would have to prove that keeping chickens would cause her financial hardship.

“One of the criteria of the use variance is the financial hardship that has to be documented. It’s one of the things that you can’t overlook,” he said at the April 3 hearing. “The argument is you would not be able to sell your house or your house would lose value if it didn’t come with four chickens. I don’t personally see that connection to financial hardship.”

Mr. Michaelis said that if the board approved Ms. Schneider’s application, it would be problematic because it would be tied into the land, not just to the homeowner. Ms. Schaefer said the board has to follow the town code in this matter.

“It has to follow the precedent in the law set forth in the use,” she said at the April 3 hearing. “You have to prove that you’re making a living in the land and can’t make a fair living without this.”

Mr. Michaelis said a change in the law would be required to allow Ms. Schneider to keep chickens on her property and recommended that she petition the town board. Ms. Schneider said at the April 3 hearing that the town code is vague on the issue because her lot is larger than than its zoning designation. She said Bedford’s climate action plan also encourages residents to produce food in their backyard. She said she keeps the chickens as a sustainability measure, so she does not have to drive to a market to buy eggs and that keeping your own chickens decreases the risk of salmonella poisoning.

Ms. Schneider’s neighbors have argued in February that the chicken feed she uses is attracting rats to the neighborhood. David Lyness, who lives adjacent to Ms. Schneider, said he has seen this problem growing up on a 130-acre farm in New Jersey and that her chickens are directly responsible.

“We raised chickens, pigs, cows, vegetables, everything of the sort. I understand the problems that come with raising poultry. Chickens, you feed them chicken feed. Rats are directly correlated to chicken feed. Where the feed is, the rats are. They go hand in hand,” he said at the Feb. 5 hearing. “We started to see an abundance of rats that basically came out of nowhere. We had no problems in 2011. We had no sightings. 2012, once these chickens arrived, it seemed like they came out of the woodwork.”

Ms. Schneider said that she keeps her chicken feed in rodent proof containers and did acknowledge an abundance of rats in the area, but she said this was caused by a combination of factors, including an unseasonably warm winter last year and many other sources of food throughout the neighborhood.

“The New York Department of Health notes that veggie gardens, pet food, bird feeders, garbage and clutter, which are prevalent in urban and suburban neighborhoods, are already very attractive to rats,” she said in a March 28 email to The Record-Review. “Chickens who just happen to come into the neighborhood later get scapegoated and blamed.”

Ms. Schneider said after the April 3 hearing that the rat problem has died down in the neighborhood. She said a friend agreed to take in her chickens, as Bedford’s building inspector Steven Fraietta said at the hearing that Ms. Schneider would have 10 days to remove them. She said she intends to petition the town board to have the law changed.



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