Brunswick council set to OK urban chicken rules

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BRUNSWICK — Some downtown residents could begin keeping up to six chickens in their backyards pending a public hearing and vote by the Town Council on Monday, Oct. 19.

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 locally and nationally, as in-town dwellers seek cost-saving measures and embrace the local food movement. 

Brunswick’s ordinance would allow 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.

The council on Oct. 5 reviewed what was close to a final draft, but asked for some changes to the setback restrictions prior to Monday’s public hearing. 

The old setback requirement would have prevented chicken coops from being built within 20 feet of an abutter’s property line. That restriction has been eased to 10 feet because some councilors said the 20-foot setback would have prevented too many residents from keeping chickens. 

In addition, the revised ordinance removes a provision that would have prevented coops from being placed in front yards.

The council Monday will also consider a 24-page report by the Recycling and Sustainability Committee, called the “Brunswick Climate Action Plan.” The document contains an analysis of the town’s carbon emissions and recommendations on 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. 

The council will likely be asked to adopt the report, although whether it will do so is uncertain, since some of the recommendations include expenditures that councilors may find objectionable.

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).

The report argues that investments in these projects now will save the town money in the future. 

The report also highlights the biggest contributors to the town’s collective carbon footprint. On the municipal side, the report says the town’s vehicle fleet is responsible for 45 percent of total emissions, with buildings and facilities coming in second at 20 percent. On the school side, Brunswick High School leads the way in emissions at 26 percent, while Coffin School and the junior high school combine for 24 percent. 

Overall, the report says, the School Department’s buildings and facilities are responsible for 41 percent of the town’s total carbon emissions.

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