Brunswick council adopts cell tower changes, closes in on urban chickens ordinance

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday approved a change that will allow taller wireless communications towers in industrial zones. 

The council also voted to revamp a change to the town’s animal ordinance that could make it possible for in-town residents to keep urban chickens for eggs. 

The council voted 8-1 to advance the cell tower change, which will increase the maximum allowable height from 60 feet to 120 feet in industrial zones. Councilor Karen Klatt was the lone dissenting vote. 

According to Town Planner Kris Hultgren, applicants would have to go through the town’s special permit process and meet existing visual standards.

The amendment also includes reducing the minimum lot area for the towers from 80,000 square feet in one industrial district, and 20,000 square feet in the other three, to 10,000 square feet. In a memo to the council, Hultgren said the reduction was necessary because the old requirement would allow small towers on lots too large to accommodate their use.

The town has four industrial zones, the industrial park on Industry Road, the area near the Church Road industrial park, adjacent to the so-called Harding plant on Bath Road and Exit 28 on Interstate 295.

The Planning Board recently unanimously approved the change.

The council also instructed town staff to draft language for an ordinance allowing backyard chickens. In May, three councilors sponsored the item, and the council unanimously moved it to the Planning Board.

Brunswick’s current ordinance governing chickens doesn’t allow the birds to be kept at downtown residences. However, a recent trend for backyard, or urban, chickens has gained momentum locally and nationally.

Portland recently amended its ordinance to allow up to six hens if residences meet minimum setback requirements. Westbrook allows six hens or more depending on lot size. Falmouth last fall altered its fowl ordinance.

South Portland was one of the first southern Maine communities to tackle the issue. The City Council spent several months crafting its ordinance, which has extensive enforcement guidelines and setback requirements.

Each community allows only hens, not roosters. The chickens must be raised for eggs and as pets, not for slaughter. The Brunswick proposal has the same restrictions.

Although the proposed Brunswick ordinance said eight chickens could be allowed, the Planning Board did not endorse that provision. In a memo to the council, the Planning Board recommended the council consider limiting the number of chickens to the size of the lot, meaning the bigger the lot, the more chickens allowed, and vice versa.

The Planning Board raised other issues, including regulating the disposal of manure, that coops adhere to natural resources protection zone building standards and a possible odor enforcement language.

Planning director Anna Breinich told the council that regulating odor was a significant concern. 

Planning staff is expected to bring back new language for the council’s next meeting. 

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or