WELLSBORO — Residents here questioned whether the Wellsboro borough council’s ordinance for keeping chickens is about the birds or the same sex couple that wants them.
“As I watch this and think about ... what it might look to people outside who … are thinking about relocating here…, if they look at this and see this as legislating through hate because it is a same sex couple?” said Lilace Guignard. “I know it’s not being said publicly, but that’s the appearance. I think we’re better than this and to take that into consideration.”
About 25 people attended the Wellsboro Borough council’s June 14 meeting to object to proposed revision to its Keeping of Animals ordinance. Before public comments began, council agreed to table the proposed revisions, with Councilman Mike Wood opposed. The reason, said Council President Craig West, is to allow the board time to review the comments and make revisions.
The ordinance currently allows keeping up to three cattle, horses, sheep and llamas on 10 acres and four on 15 acres. The revised ordinance would allow up to the same number of goats and alpacas on 10 and acre, and up to three bee hives and four chickens, ducks or geese on five acres or more.
Anna Wales, who with her spouse Raquel Rogers has sought to keep chickens on their one-acre lot for the past year, said the proposed changes approved in May “felt like a real slap in the face.” After the court case where they had been fined $3,000 plus costs for keeping the birds in violation of the ordinance, they had been told that if the birds were removed, the fine would be waived and the ordinance re-written to allow them to keep chickens.
Instead, it appeared the council “cut and pasted a couple of facts and scrambled together” an ordinance to allow chickens, bees, alpacas and goats, Wales said.
Veterinarian Kristine Shaw said she had tried to keep chickens in the borough, and removed them after receiving a letter noting her violation of the ordinance. As a borough resident, she understands that comes with limitations but the “absolutely no chickens makes me think if I want to live the life I envision, I have to move out of the borough.”
Many residents took exception to the requirement of having five acres of property to own chickens.
“Five acres is way out of line for five chickens,” said Sue Mitchell. “I went online and learned you need 8-10 square feet per chicken. I’m not sure how that relates to five acres, but it seems a lot, lot smaller.”
Thomas Putnam, who lives outside the borough, said the borough should address each animal situation on a case-by-case basis
“If someone is really abusing the privilege of having animals in their backyard, we can deal with the situation,” Putnam said.
Other residents spoke about how keeping small livestock and growing your own food is a trend across the nation, as well as environmentally beneficial and educational for children.
“I have a picture that I want to give every member of council — just to look — and reconsider what we want to do for our neighbors and I don’t think we want to do this,” said Patty Kramer.
Once council revises the ordinance, it will advertise the ordinance for 30 days seeking public comment before final adoption.
Also at the special meeting, council voted 5-1 with Wood again opposing to amend its Burning Ordinance to allow burning flags as a public demonstration with a permit.