Saranac Lake tables livestock moratorium

SARANAC LAKE – Cindy Nadon doesn’t believe the sky is falling. And she’s not alone.

Nadon, who raises chickens on her property in the village, was one of a half-dozen people who asked the village Board of Trustees Tuesday to scrap a local law that would temporarily ban village residents from keeping livestock. She and other speakers said they don’t think there are that many people keeping livestock in the village, and they don’t think it’s creating any problems.

“I think that we’re going, ‘Oh, Chicken Little, the sky is falling! The sky is falling,'” Nadon said, referencing the Chicken Little folk tale. “‘Something might happen, so let’s stop way before it’s going to happen.’ How many people, in reality, in the village have chickens?”

Nadon spoke during a public hearing on the proposal. Later, when the local law came up for discussion, the village board tabled it.

Village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said the law would prohibit the introduction of domesticated animals in the village until a new land-use code is adopted that contains “reasonable standards for the keeping of chickens and other animals in the village.”

Evans noted that the moratorium is temporary; it would last one year from the date it is enacted and wouldn’t apply to people who currently have livestock. He said the proposal includes language from the village’s draft comprehensive plan – approved later in the meeting by the board – which “recognizes that backyard chickens are a benefit to the community, but that the potential negative effects have to be addressed through reasonable standards.

“This is a proactive measure the village can take to try to limit and reduce nuisances in the village and give our code enforcement officer the tools he needs to make sure the quality of life is maintained,” Evans said.

When the law was introduced two weeks ago, Evans told the Enterprise that raising chickens and other livestock has become more common in the village. He said the village hasn’t had “a huge problem yet” but was aware of problems like animal waste in other communities.

Those who spoke at the hearing, like Diana Trummer, said the village shouldn’t “shut the door on everyone” while the new code is drafted.

“I own chickens and have a pretty substantial-size property, almost an acre,” she said. “If someone has just a simple building lot, obviously you’re not going to want 40 chickens in there, but still, I think slamming the door until something else is in place is a little too much.”

Trummer said her neighbors’ compost pile is more smelly than her chickens. She said chicken manure can be used in gardening and is not as toxic as some of the fertilizers people can buy.

“With this (genetically modified food) stuff going on and (agriculture company) Monsanto, I can see why they would want to start raising their own food, whether it be a garden or small animals,” said village resident Shawn Boyer. “I think this proposed law is based on fear and not fact. There is something going in the code that will address that very soon.”

Nadon said some people are raising chickens and other livestock because it helps make ends meet.

“What is it that we’re trying to prevent?” asked Elizabeth Buck, a local doctor. “There are certainly things you can think about with chickens that would be a bad thing, like dogs and everything else, and reasonable limits are a good part of a community, but I think stopping it before we even get going is not a good precedent.”

Buck also said creating more land-use restrictions could discourage people from moving to the village.

Trustee Paul Van Cott requested the local law be tabled. He told the Enterprise after the meeting that he wants to look at it more closely and review it with Evans. He noted that there’s nothing in the law that deals with replacement of chickens for people who have them now.

Asked if he believes there are livestock problems in the community, Van Cott said, “There is a concern, and I think it is based on specific information.

“I have confidence that Jeremy wouldn’t bring it forward for no good reason,” he said.