Chelmsford Chicken Owners Get Temporary Reprieve

January 9, 2019
William, 4, and sister Evelyn Melville, 6, of Chelmsford watch their family's chickens in the run area of the coop. They have eight chickens including Rhode Island Reds, Black Australorps and Barred Rocks. SUN/Julia Malakie Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

CHELMSFORD -- For 2019 at least, chicken owners won’t have to buy costly certified plot plans to get their permits.

After receiving input from residents, the Board of Health voted Monday night to stay that portion of its animal regulations through the end of the year, according to Health Director Sue Rosa.

“Over the next several months, the board will come up with whatever change they feel is appropriate,” Rosa said.

In the meantime, a mortgage inspection plan, town GIS map, or some combination thereof, updated to include specific distances and locations for coops and other animal facilities, will be accepted in its place, she said.

These options were among the suggestions made by residential chicken owner Alexander Melville in a letter to the board last week. Initially under the impression the plot plan would cost $200 to $300, he found the cost was closer to $1,500 to $2,500 upon seeking estimates from surveyors.

“I’m grateful the Board of Health removed the requirement for 2019 and I’m confident they’ll find an acceptable solution that doesn’t cost a fortune every year,” Melville said Tuesday. “I’d like to see the total renewal cost similar to that for dogs (licenses), or about $20.”

On Monday the Board of Health also held a public input session regarding side yard chicken coops and runs. Under the new regulations, the animal housing structures are only allowed in backyards.

At least a few chicken owners, permitted before the regulations changed, have existing coops in side yards.

At the meeting, the board decided to reword that portion of the regulations so that anybody who had a pre-existing conforming permit in 2018 for a side yard coop would be able to obtain new permits for 2019 and on as long as they continue to renew their permit each year and in the same location, Rosa said.

Should they let their permit lapse for a year or decide to move the facility, they would no longer be grandfathered in and would have to fully comply with the regulations in order to receive another permit, she said.

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.

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