WHEATFIELD – A law to limit the number of chickens and other fowl that can be kept in residential zones won no support from the Town Board on Monday.
A 40-minute public hearing disclosed that the reason the issue came before the board in the first place was a neighbor dispute between Karen Lowery and David Bazinet, of Shawnee Road. Lowery called Niagara County sheriff’s deputies last August to complain that Bazinet was slaughtering chickens in his backyard within sight of her home.
Bazinet presented a report from a Department of Environmental Conservation officer who inspected his property in the wake of Lowery’s complaint and found no violations.
Lowery had claimed that 65 chickens had been slaughtered at once and that her quality of life had been impacted by seeing that and by smelly garbage containing chicken parts. She charged that Bazinet was raising chickens for commercial sale and not for personal use.
Bazinet said he slaughtered two batches of 25 chickens each and said they were for personal use for meat. “My mistake was being in her view of one window,” he said. “These were happy birds. Their heads weren’t cut off to run around the yard.”
Lowery said she could see the chickens from “about eight windows” and said the root of the problem was a rezoning of the neighborhood from residential to rural-residential.
“I’ve been putting up with these chickens for three summers. Enough already,” Lowery said. “I’m not against a couple of birds, but what goes on next door isn’t for personal use.”
“I didn’t sell a single bird,” Bazinet said.
One speaker after another said they raised substantial numbers of chickens at their homes and denounced any efforts to curtail that.
Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole said the proposed law started with a recommendation from the Planning Board.
When one speaker asked the board members if any of them favored the proposed law, none responded. Several said they were against it or had issues with the text as written.
“It sounds like the members of the board aren’t interested in going forward with this,” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said.
“The most we need is a slaughtering law,” Councilman Randy Retzlaff said.
“We don’t need to be deciding chicken laws here. We have a lot bigger things on our plate,” Councilman Arthur Gerbec said.
Some residents, judging by reaction in recent months at public meetings, might consider the issue of Quasar Energy Group’s biosolids plant to be one of those bigger things.
Monday, the board passed a resolution to join with the county’s state legislative delegation in asking the DEC to revoke the permits it issued for land application of “equate,” the byproduct of the company’s anaerobic digestion process.
The process lasts 25 days and uses microbes to convert food waste and sewage sludge to methane gas, which the company uses to produce electricity and compressed natural gas.
Several residents at Monday’s meeting continued their demand that the plant be shut down, but Cliffe reiterated, “We do not have the authority to shut it down.”
He said a law to ban future use of equate may be ready for action at the June 23 meeting.
Nathan C. Carr, a Quasar spokesman, said at the meeting that business at the Liberty Drive plant is “slow.”
He said activity “is down to a minimum due to receiving being way down and not being able to pull things out the back end with no land application.”
Amherst, one of the sources of sewage sludge for Quasar, has stopped sending it there, a major factor in the slowdown. Carr said the company might have to haul equate to its Ohio storage sites unless the land application issue is resolved. He said he was optimistic about that, but wouldn’t say what the solution might be.