BURRILLVILLE – The Town Council has scheduled a public hearing on a new ordinance that would govern where and how chickens can legally be kept in town and if passed, it would mark Burrillville’s first detailed law on the issue.
An ordinance amending Chapter 4 and 30 of the town’s code of ordinances, as well as Section 30-71 of the Zoning District Use Table will be discussed at a hearing on Monday, Nov. 20 starting at 4 p.m.
Currently, chickens are only legally allowed on properties of five acres or more zoned Farming Residential without a special use permit, which must be obtained from the Zoning Board. Councilor Stephen Rawson noted that he and former Town Planner Tom Kravitz crafted a more detailed proposal some 13 years ago, but it was ultimately shot down.
“We never we had one,” Rawson told NRI NOW this week, admitting that there’s likely not much enforcement of the current, sparse law banning the birds in most zones.
Councilor Raymond Trinque noted that last time the board discussed the issue, it was, “standing room only,” at the meeting.
“Last time this came up it was probably … not quite as controversial as the junk car rule but it was up there,” Trinque said. “It was up there with the fire pit one.”
Rawson said at the time, “Nancy Binns rejected it, and said they can go to zoning for relief. I said, ‘Who’s going to pay to go to zoning to get a special use permit for a couple of chickens?'”
Rawson said the latest effort started with a request from the town’s animal control office due to complaints.
“I think there’s going to be some interest,” he said. “It could be a benefit to some because it’s going to bring them into compliance with zoning.”
According to the proposed ordinance put together by the Planning Board, multifamily dwellings with more than two units will not be permitted to keep chickens and for two-unit buildings, the property must be owner-occupied. Tenants at rental properties would be prohibited from keeping roosters and hens.
For single-family, owner-occupied residential homes, a table would govern the chicken quota, with none allowed on lots of less than a half acre. The number permitted would increase with the property size, with up to 24 hens on a 2.99 acre property, and up to 60 on a 4.99 acre lot. Properties of five acres or more could keep and unlimited number of both hens and roosters, either free range or penned.
Free range chickens would be prohibited, meanwhile, on properties of less than three acres and allowed only with a special use permit for on lots of 3 to 4.99 acres. Roosters on those lots would also be limited to owners who obtain a special use permit for breeding.
Cages, coops and living quarters would need to meet zoning and building requirements.
And no chickens would be allowed on properties zoned Village Commercial, General Commercial, Limited Industrial or General Industrial.
Rawson noted that there would be no, “grandfather rights,” exempting homeowners from the law because although many may be keeping the birds now, “They never had the right to begin with.”
“I think it’s going to benefit a lot of people that are not in compliance with zoning,” Rawson said.
There was little discussion of the details at the first reading of the proposal on Wednesday, Oct. 25, except for one oversight noted by Councilor David Houle.
“There’s nothing in here about them crossing a street,” Houle said.
The complete proposed ordinance can be found here.