Brunswick council OKs urban chickens

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday voted 8-1 to allow some downtown residents to keep up to six backyard chickens.

The council on Monday also unanimously voted to ask town staff and the Recycling and Sustainability Committee to create a policy statement on municipal and school activities contributing to climate change. 

The council, Planning Board and staff have been reviewing and modifying the so-called urban chicken ordinance since spring. The amendment to the town’s municipal code follows a pattern of similar ordinances in Maine and nationally, as in-town dwellers seek cost-saving measures and embrace the local food movement.

Brunswick’s ordinance allows some residents in the town’s growth zone to keep up to six hens for egg-producing purposes. Slaughtering or selling the chickens would be prohibited.

Councilor Karen Klatt opposed the measure, saying that she didn’t believe the Codes Enforcement Department had the capacity to make sure chicken owners were following the rules. 

There has been little public opposition to the ordinance. However, some councilors sought assurances that the new rules would address noise and odor concerns. 

The rules go into effect 30 days after the council’s Oct. 19 vote. Residents who construct chicken coops will have to pay a one-time building permit fee equal to 20 cents per square foot or a minimum of $25. In addition, chicken owners will pay an annual $10 license fee. 

The council also compromised on language governing the proximity of hen houses to abutters. The original ordinance required a 20-foot setback, but the council decided 10 feet is sufficient. 

The council also heard a presentation of the “Brunswick Climate Action Plan,” a 24-page report by the Recycling and Sustainability Committee that analyzes the town’s carbon emissions and recommends how to reduce the emissions.

The report stems from the council’s unanimous 2007 decision to sign the U.S. Mayors Agreement, which commits the town to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to levels set by the Kyoto Protocol. In 2008, the council assigned the recycling committee to review carbon emissions in town and School Department operations.

Such recommendations include upgrading lighting in the Public Works garage ($28,000), updating the garage’s 1950s-era boiler ($29,000), new roof and insulation for the town-owned building at 10 Industry Road ($39,000) and improved lighting at the recreation center on Federal Street ($44,500).

Prior to the presentation, the council unanimously accepted the receipt of a $100,900 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. Funds from the grant will be used for some of recommendations in the climate report, including replacing the Public Works garage boiler. 

The council also voted 9-0 to approve a liquor license for Benchwarmers, a new restaurant moving into 212A Maine St., the space recently vacated by Scarlet Begonias, which is now at Maine Street Station. 

The Benchwarmers license drew concerns from Sarah Brayman and other residents, who said they worry about the proliferation of bars in the neighborhood.

“This is the third bar proposed in a one-block area,” said Brayman, referring to Scartlet Begonias and the future addition of Byrnes Irish Pub in Maine Street Station. “This is a fast and potentially drastic zoning change. … This area abuts a stable, family-oriented neighborhood.”

However, Benchwarmers owner Jeremy Saxton said the new sports pub will be a family-style restaurant that operates between noon and 10 p.m., not a bar that will be open all night. Saxton also owns Bacari, the restaurant directly next door.

Councilor Margo Knight said the addition of bars is something the council will monitor. However, she said she felt comfortable supporting the license because of the Saxton family’s reputation for “good food and hospitality.”  

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