Debate over roosters continues at Cape Elizabeth Planning Board

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Planning Board is still wrestling with how to best restrict rooster noise in residential neighborhoods at its next workshop on Jan. 4, 2011. 

A proposal to limit roosters to properties of 40,000 square feet or more was discussed at the Dec. 21 board meeting, but members decided to continue the discussion with more input from farmers who have lots of less than 100,000 square feet.

The discussion started in June when John and Debra Maley of Ocean House Road wrote a letter to the town requesting a rooster restriction in residential neighborhoods.

The Town Council sent the request to the Planning Board as a land-use problem, and at a November workshop the board worked to reach a compromise between a Cape Farm Alliance recommendation to change nothing about the ordinance and residents’ requests to ban roosters in residential neighborhoods.

The board decided on a proposal that would allow roosters on lots of 40,000 square feet or more as a way to encourage farming practices while reducing noise complaints.

At the most recent meeting, the Cape Farm Alliance reiterated its opposition to the ban and suggested the matter is less a land-use issue and more of a noise ordinance matter. 

Planning Board Chairman Peter Hatem said amendments to the noise ordinance cannot be made by the Planning Board, so the Town Council would have to address that issue.

Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said the board’s proposal is a balance between the desires of the residents bothered by the roosters and the desires of Cape Farm Alliance to promote agriculture.

But Gil Mendelson of 20 Beacon Lane did not favor the proposal. He said he experienced the disruptive noises of a neighbor’s rooster first hand and said depending on where they roam, restricting the birds to 40,000-square-foot lots could still result in disturbances.

“I appreciate your attempt to remedy the problem at hand by limiting the ownership of roosters to homeowners with lot sizes of 40,000 square feet or more. It would solve my problem,” he said. “But, it ignores the practical fact that a rooster’s crow carries a great distance and lot size does not guarantee separation from the offender in any event.”

He said there is no point to owning a rooster unless it’s a farmer who wants to propagate a chicken flock for commercial purposes.

“I’m not asking that roosters be banned from Cape Elizabeth,” Mendelson said. “I’m asking that roosters be banned unless they are needed for some commercial purpose to sustain the commercial farms.”

Currently, the ordinance states that residents can keep livestock, animals and fowls for commercial purposes provided they are on lots of 100,000 square feet or more.

Board member Elaine Falender said she wanted to know if roosters were needed for reasons other than commercial purposes and wanted other members of the public to be able to participate in the discussion.

“I would feel much more comfortable giving more time for fuller public comment from all points of view on this question before taking action,” she said. “Rather than moving forward with an ordinance that is a guess … I’d prefer to do what we truly believe is the correct thing to do and I don’t yet feel that I know what the correct thing to do is.”

She said she wanted people with farming experience to give additional information and answer specific rooster and farming questions.

Hatem agreed and said if roosters are not needed for any reason other than commercial purposes he would be comfortable increasing the lot size to 100,000 square feet and otherwise banning roosters.

The board encouraged members of the Cape Farm Alliance who are micro-farmers and who own roosters to attend the workshop, as well as residents who have been affected by rooster noise. The workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 4, at 7 p.m. in the William Jordan Conference Room in the Town Hall.

In other business, the board approved amendments to a site plan to demolish cottages at the Inn by the Sea and construct a new building for 10 hotel units.

It also approved two minor changes to the Shore Road path site plan to replace proposed boardwalks with a 5-foot bituminous sidewalk and a retaining wall. The sidewalks will be installed across from Delano Park Entrance No. 4 and across from the Tide’s Edge Road.

The board also approved plans for Portland Dry Cleaners, a pick-up and drop-off business in the Ocean House Road shopping center. The tenant will be in the space formerly occupied by Bank of America.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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