Proposed Cape Elizabeth rooster rule heads to public hearing

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council will hold a public hearing on Nov. 6 on the proposed ordinance that would ban roosters on lots under about one acre.

The ordinance committee on Sept. 19 added the proposed rooster rule to the existing animal control ordinance, after Joe Gajda of 15 Farm Hill Road complained about his neighbor’s crowing rooster. Pat Kennedy of 17 Farm Hill Road has refused to remove his rooster from the residential neighborhood.

Councilors on Monday unanimously agreed to hold the public hearing to hear the thoughts of those who would be affected by the ordinance. Banning roosters on lots under 40,000 square feet would affect more than 2,800 properties: 61 percent of the lots, but only 25 percent of the land area.

Councilor Kathy Ray, chairwoman of the ordinance committee, explained that the proposed ordinance is written to treat the situation as an animal issue, not a noise issue.

“In order to regulate noise, it’s a much more complex issue than you’d think,” she said.

Councilor Caitlin Jordan disagreed.

“To me this is a noise issue,” she said.

Jordan asked why the rooster issue can’t be treated the same way a barking dog is handled. Police Chief Neil Williams, who was present at the meeting to field questions about enforcing the ordinance, responded.

“Dogs don’t bark all the time; not all dogs bark,” Williams said.

He went on to say that he’s come to understand that some roosters will crow all day and that it is not easy to stop them. He said dogs usually bark at something, and that he doesn’t think roosters crow at anything.

“My understanding with a rooster is that it doesn’t matter if there’s anything outside (causing it to crow),” Williams said. “It’s going to cock-a-doodle-do, therefore it’s much cleaner for us who are going to enforce it to make it (so) you can’t have any roosters on a piece of property under 40,000 square feet.”

Jordan also asked about grandfathering, saying that it might be unfair to take roosters away from people who owned them prior to the ordinance.

“We put a lot of ordinances into effect and people are grandfathered because they had a preexisting thing, and we’ve gone ahead and changed it, so what is the legal concept behind that and is there any way it could be argued and applied here?” she asked.

Neither Williams or any of the other councilors provided an answer to the question. Some did say they didn’t think it was a prevalent issue, and Williams said that in the over 30 years he’s worked in town, this is only the third time a rooster debate has come up.

Jordan said this should be enough reason to reconsider the ordinance.

“Right now, (Williams is) saying you’ve had two instances in the past how many years, and we’re going to take steps that make it so who knows how many roosters are in this town, but we’re effectively saying you can’t have roosters anymore, even though you’ve had it for years, your neighbors aren’t complaining, everybody’s fine,” she said. “But if you keep that rooster, you’re going to be breaking the law in Cape Elizabeth.”

Jordan went on to say that if residents want to have an impact on the council’s decision, they need to speak at the public hearing. Other councilors agreed, with Councilor Jamie Wagner saying people can also talk to councilors prior to the public hearing.

“I would encourage anybody that wants to continue to keep roosters, or ever have roosters, if there’s anything that you want to present to the council prior to the public hearing, I would encourage those citizens to do so,” he said.

The Nov. 6 public hearing will begin at 7 p.m.

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

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.