CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday tabled a zoning ordinance change that would ban deer feeding and baiting.
It was unclear from the five members present whether the item could receive the four votes needed to implement the change. Councilors Jeff Porter and Mike Perfetti were absent.
“Our intent, whether this ordinance passes or not, is to work much harder on a public informational campaign,” Town Manager Bill Shane said, adding that he hopes “that we will have 80 to 90 percent compliance just voluntarily, and we won’t have to get into enforcement action. Wells has had this ordinance on the book for 10 years, and their police chief has said they have never had any violations, or had anyone cited as a result of this ordinance.”
Shane said Chuck Burnie, the animal control officer, has expressed concern about the difficulty of enforcing the ordinance, since it could be unclear if someone is feeding deer or another animal.
Councilor Steve Moriarty, who said he supported the ordinance, acknowledged the difficulty of practical enforcement but said he didn’t think adoption of the ordinance would be inconsistent with a simultaneous public information campaign.
“I do think the animal control officer needs something more than public education and doing what’s right and sensible,” he said, “to support his decisions and to protect the interests of property owners who live next to or close to those who are feeding deer.”
Tick-carrying deer have been cited as a key factor in Lyme disease infection. Resident Linda Emery, whose husband has the disease, said she hopes the ordinance will spur public education. “I have deer go through my yard almost every day,” Emery said. “But I would hope that not encouraging them to linger would decrease the incidents of Lyme disease.”
Councilor Ron Copp said he couldn’t support the ordinance “because of my own problems at home,” noting that his wife has more than 30 bird feeders on his more than three-acre lot and that deer are attracted to bird feeders.
“There are a lot of things that deer are attracted to,” he said. “We do not feed deer, but we have deer in our yard. … I just think that this will become an enforcement issue amongst neighbors. And I think public education is the best thing that can happen.”
The Town Council will likely reconsider the issue at its next regular meeting on Monday, July 12.
The council also voted 4-1, with Moriarty opposed, in favor of a zoning ordinance change allowing residents to keep up to six chickens on lots less than two acres anywhere in town.
Owners must be licensed on an annual basis, and guidelines such as keeping the chickens penned in must be followed.
Residents with more than two acres are allowed to have an unlimited number of free-range chickens on their property, as long as the chickens don’t trespass onto neighboring properties or roads.
Domesticated chickens were previously allowed only on properties larger than two acres, Shane said.
Moriarty said his “only concern is for the more densely-settled neighborhoods, and how this may create more problems … for the residents. I’m just not convinced that this sort of use is appropriate in more densely-settled areas. I can see a lot of complaints coming about.”
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.