Cape Elizabeth likely to adopt 1-acre rooster rule

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Residents will not be allowed to keep roosters on lots under 40,000 square feet if the Town Council approves a new ordinance.

The ordinance committee on Sept. 19 added the proposed rooster rule to the existing animal control ordinance after a dispute in a residential neighborhood.

Joe Gajda of 15 Farm Hill Road brought the issue to the council after his neighbor, Pat Kennedy of 17 Farm Hill Road, refused to get rid of his crowing rooster.

Councilors on Sept. 8 referred the issue to the ordinance committee. The committee decided to call it an animal issue, rather than a noise issue, because it is hard to control the sound of a rooster.

“All the research I’ve done shows that treating this as a noise issue is not effective,” Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said.

Banning roosters on lots under 40,000 square feet, or approximately one acre, would affect more than 2,800 lots in Cape Elizabeth. While this is 61 percent of the lots in town, it is only 25 percent of the land area.

“If we go with the 40,000-square-foot lot size, it covers areas where we’ve had problems in the past,” Police Chief Neil Williams said.

Williams was present at the meeting so the ordinance committee could consult him about what the police would and would not be able to enforce. Gajda said he is very grateful that the town took so many steps to ensure an ordinance could be created that would help him and the rest of his neighborhood.

“The councilors understood the problem and it was great that our town planner prepared some maps and statistics to give the committee a sense of what areas would be included if the lot size cutoff is 40,000 square feet,” Gajda said in an email. “The police chief’s input also seemed very helpful to the ordinance committee, so I’m thankful he was there to explain how the issue looks from his side.”

Kennedy was upset by the ordinance and said it is unfair.

“My question is, because (the neighbors) don’t like the noise, they get to change the rules for the whole town because of (Gajda’s) personal preferences?” he said after the meeting.

Before deciding to ban roosters based on lot size, the committee discussed banning them after they reach a certain age, but it was decided that this would be hard to regulate. Williams said the ordinance should be based on something that can be quantified or qualified, because people can lie about the age of a rooster.

Councilor Kathy Ray suggested the ban be based on when the rooster begins to crow.

“What if we didn’t look at age, but if we looked at activity?” she asked.

The committee then discussed the possibility of someone keeping an adult rooster that didn’t crow. Kennedy previously made this suggestion at a council meeting, when he told councilors he had purchased a crow-reducing collar. Councilors decided this may not be effective.

After the meeting Kennedy explained that the rooster collar had recently come in the mail, but that his rooster becomes “catatonic” when wearing it.

“He doesn’t like it at all,” Kennedy said. “He sounds like he’s being choked. I’m questioning whether it’s inhumane.”

Gajda said he is happy the committee decided to go with an outright ban, so there would be no way the rooster could stay in his neighborhood.

“Everyone seems to be interested in protecting neighborhoods with small lots, which is what we feel is important,” he said.

Kennedy said he is tired of fighting back and that if it is decided that he has to get rid of his rooster, he will comply.

“We decided we’re done with it,” he said. “I’ll abide with what they do.”

The proposed change to the animal control ordinance will go to the council on Oct. 6. If it passes, it will go to a public hearing Nov. 6 and, if accepted, will go into effect 30 days later.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.