The Derry Planning Board was treated to an aural object lesson during a discussion of a proposed revision to the zoning ordinance involving livestock. The board discussed the revisions, meant to reduce noise that could offend neighbors, at its July 17 meeting.
The town has a livestock ordinance, Code Enforcement Officer Bob Mackey told the board. In recent months his department has received complaints from citizens crying “fowl” for everything from crowing roosters to chickens running loose in the road and on neighbors’ property.
The chicken issue is clear-cut in the ordinance, section 165-157 on Enclosures. The crowing at dawn? Not so much. “There is a general provision in the ordinance,” Mackey said, “that a nuisance not be created.”
Mackey went to the town attorneys on the matter after several residents of the Windham Road area spoke before the Town Council on the matter of a neighbor’s rooster. “We asked the attorney if we could prosecute under the ‘general nuisance’ rule,” Mackey told the Planning Board. “Their opinion was, no.”
It’s a tough situation because much of Derry is still agricultural in nature, Mackey said.
A “distance requirement” for anyone owning a rooster might help, he said.
Member Jim MacEachern warned that, “If we open this up, we’ll hear from people who don’t like some other animal. Every person who has an issue with any animal will come before us.” Vice-Chair John O’Connor said the zoning ordinance contained a “nuisance” clause but there was no town-wide nuisance ordinance, and added, “We really need to look at the nuisance issue.”
The nuisance section in Section 3 of the zoning ordinance prohibits anything that is “injurious, noxious or offensive,” including dust, fumes and noise. Member Darrell Park said the solution was simple. “There is a way to keep them from crowing, and we could make a rule that they’re not allowed to crow during certain hours,” he said, adding that roosters would not crow if their eyes were covered and they were in dark places.
“That would put the responsibility back on the owner,” Mackey said. Though the meeting took place indoors and at night, the crow of a rooster and the cluck of chickens frequently punctuated the meeting.
MacEachern suggested Mackey research surrounding communities and see what they were doing.
Member Jan Choiniere referred to a 2008 meeting when Mackey suggested a clause saying “at no time will a nuisance be created that would interfere with neighboring property.” But the wording never made it into the final ordinance, she said. Councilor Al Dimmock maintained that, “The problem is the person who owns the rooster. The rooster will not crow if it cannot see light.”
But that doesn’t solve the problem of a cow bellowing in heat, he added, saying, “The ruling has to be for all livestock.” As if on cue, a cow’s moo filled the conference room.
An amendment would give Mackey more teeth to enforce the ordinance, Planning Director George Sioras said. Or fangs.
The board agreed to have Mackey research surrounding communities’ solutions. The down-on-the-farm soundtrack proved to come from an app on David Granese’s phone.