Pringle resident asks for change in zoning regulations to allow birds

Last updated: February 18. 2014 11:38PM - 3957 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com

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A request to change Luzerne County zoning regulations to allow backyard chickens will be considered by county council’s operational services committee, council decided Tuesday.

Pringle resident Christine Dixon pressed council for the change because she keeps three chickens in an enclosed backyard area, saying the practice has become more popular. The borough is among 23 municipalities that rely on the county for zoning.

An audience member clucked in support of Dixon Tuesday as she approached the podium during the committee meeting of all council members. She submitted another thick packet of information to reinforce her request.

County Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri said council has the power to amend zoning ordinances, though changes must apply to all municipalities covered by the county, not only Pringle.

Councilman Stephen A. Urban said he has no problem with the change, noting Dixon has pointed to several areas that have recently reversed bans on chickens.

The county’s zoning ordinance says farm animals, which have always been interpreted to include chickens, are not permitted in residential, neighborhood business, community business or mining districts, county interim Planning/Zoning Director Nancy Snee told council in an email.

The county Zoning Hearing Board denied Dixon’s request for a variance to allow four hens on her property in December, Snee said. The county must begin legal action against Dixon at the magisterial level, which could result in fines, because she did not comply with a directive to remove the chickens from her property by Feb. 7, Snee said.

The county gets involved in alleged zoning violations based on complaints from neighbors or municipalities, she said. Another Pringle property owner had to remove chickens after a variance request was denied, she said.

Pringle Councilman Joseph Piazza also spoke Tuesday, urging council members to keep the chicken ban in effect. He pointed to the owners of dogs and cats who don’t control or clean up after their pets and predicted similar problems with chickens. The borough doesn’t have the resources to properly monitor chickens to ensure they don’t become a nuisance, he said.

“We stand firm on this request and hope Luzerne County Council does also,” Piazza said.

Lackawanna County resident Evan Zavada traveled to the meeting to discuss the issue and said he raises chickens for food. Zavada said he had to move his chickens to a secret location because of zoning regulations.

Zavada said noise is not a concern because roosters aren’t needed to produce eggs. Government officials should respect citizens’ right to choose how to feed their families, he said.

“Raising your own animals is not new. There was once a time when living off the land was common,” Zavada said.

In another zoning matter, a crowd of residents also attended Tuesday’s meeting in opposition of a proposed facility in Lake Township that would recycle water from natural gas drilling operations.

The county Zoning Hearing Board will consider a variance allowing the project at 7 p.m. March 4 in the courthouse and may issue a decision that night, Snee said.

The citizens said the project will threaten the environment, property values, public safety and quality of life. At least two described the project as “poison” to the area.

Council members said they have no control over the zoning hearing board’s decision, though they may pass a resolution at next week’s council meeting taking a stance against the project.

Council Vice Chairman Edward Brominski also suggested Tuesday the hiring of a solicitor to represent council.

Pedri said he serves both council and all administrative branches as directed by the home rule charter and said he bases all opinions on the law and charter. He said he takes ethics seriously and would speak up if he encountered a conflict representing both the legislative and executive branches.

Instead of hiring another solicitor to attend council meetings, several council members said they may be interested in consulting an outside attorney to obtain a second opinion on specific matters.

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