Chickens now OK on smaller lots in Shelton

Shelton residents will now be able to keep up to 10 chickens on lots from two acres to five acres.

That was the compromise measure passed by the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which had considered allowing chickens on lots as small as one acre in size.

The new regulations took effect on March 6. The rules being phased out had banned chickens on all lots under five acres.

Ruth Parkins, P&Z chairman, said she thought it was “ridiculous” someone couldn’t keep chickens to have fresh eggs on a two-acre property. The issue had come to the forefront in 2014 because of a complaint involving a two-acre property.
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People who own five acres or more will still be able to have an unlimited number of chickens as well as roosters, because properties that big can be defined as farms.

Roosters, which usually are the cause of any noise problems, will not be allowed on lots under five acres.

Changes approved in 5-1 vote

The revised regulations passed 5-1, with member Virginia Harger in opposition.
Harger said there had been “no demonstrated need from the public” to alter the current rules, based on limited turnout at a two-part public hearing on the issue.

Harger said making it easier to have chickens “would create an enforcement issue,” tying up valuable staff time to check on the number of chickens in people’s yards.

The change will allow chickens on 600 new Shelton properties, she said, which could become a nuisance to neighbors in certain cases.

Harger said the rules were being changed “to accommodate a small number of residents” who might want chickens, and not “for the common good.”

Bringing people into compliance

Other P&Z commissioners saw it differently. Member James Tickey said he doesn’t think a lot of people are going to go out and get chickens just because it’s now legal.

Tickey said liberalizing the rules somewhat will bring people with a few chickens into compliance, which seems more reasonable than trying to take away their chickens. “Action is needed,” he said.

When another member suggested that people with, or wanting, chickens could seek a ZBA variance, Tickey said requiring a family that wants a few chickens for fresh eggs to get a variance seemed like an unnecessary burden.

Walnut Avenue complaint

Some proponents noted the issue first came up when a neighbor complained about a Walnut Avenue homeowner having chickens and a rooster.

The homeowner then sought a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which, rather than taking any action, suggested the P&Z look at changing the regulations.

Member Anthony Pogoda said he couldn’t support allowing chickens on lots of only one acre, pointing to the smell of chicken manure and how chickens can attract wild animals.

Member Nancy Dickal said she also would oppose allowing chickens on one-acre lots.

Parkins favored allowing chickens on one-acre lots. An earlier draft of the revisions would have allowed up to five chickens on lots of from one to two acres

Additional public comments

Prior to the vote, P&Z members heard from three final members of the public.

Charles O’Donnell of Shelton said people should be able to have chickens on any size lot. He said New Haven allows up to six chickens — but no roosters — on all size properties, with certain rules.

O’Donnell said having setbacks from property lines, to make sure the chickens don’t disturb neighbors, is important.

Resident Bryan Vasser of Shelton agreed a defined setback is needed to make sure the chickens are closer to the owner’s residence than that of a neighbor.

The approved changes require a 20-foot setback, partly due to ZBA concerns that an earlier proposal for a 50-foot setback might be too restrictive and lead to variance requests from the ZBA.

A letter-writer expressed opposition to changing the rules, indicating it was “very unpleasant” when a neighbor had chickens and a rooster because the resident would be awakened early and had to worry about sanitation issues.

Must be in coops, can't roam free

On lots under five acres, the new rules require that chickens be kept in coops or similar structures that are properly screened, not be allowed to roam free, and be prohibited from front yards or within 20 feet of a property line.

In addition, certain sanitary standards would need to be maintained and the eggs could not be sold to the public.

Many P&Z members were surprised there wasn’t stronger public interest in the issue. Only a handful of people spoke on the chicken regulations during the public hearing.