CAPE ELIZABETH — Roosters are now banned on lots under 40,000 square feet, under an ordinance passed by the Town Council.
Councilors voted 5-2 on Nov. 6 for the ordinance, which is an amendment to an existing miscellaneous offenses ordinance. Banning roosters on lots under 40,000 square feet, or just under one acre, will affect more than 2,800 properties: 61 percent of the town’s lots, but only 25 percent of the land area.
Although the town has had rooster issues in the past, it came up again in September, when Joe Gajda of 15 Farm Hill Road complained that his neighbor, Pat Kennedy of 17 Farm Hill Road, refused to remove his rooster from the residential neighborhood. (The rooster has since been removed because it was attacking the family dog, before the ordinance was approved.)
At the Nov. 6 public hearing, Gajda said while the rooster is now gone, he still wanted the councilors to know how bad it was to live next door to one.
“It’s just, it’s like an assault,” he said.
Gajda said he wanted the councilors to “protect the quality of life in small neighborhoods.”
Kennedy said getting rid of his family’s rooster was very difficult and that he doesn’t believe the ordinance is fair.
“The reality is my lot is more than sufficient in size to make animals, chickens, happy,” he said.
Kennedy said there has been a lot of exaggeration over the past two months about the rooster’s noise. Kennedy’s wife Crystal also spoke, saying the ordinance isn’t “a good compromise” and isn’t fair to those who can’t afford a bigger lot.
“Passing an ordinance like the one being recommended sets a precedence that the town is unwilling to meet in the middle, and unless you have money, you’re not allowed certain rights,” she said.
Leona Fitzgerald, who owns roosters, also said the ban isn’t the best solution for the problem.
“I don’t feel the proposed ordinance is a solution,” she said. “I think it’s too much of a blanket. … I just don’t think it’ll work.”
Fitzgerald said that the ordinance should have “some sort of exemption application process” for people in her situation. She said that while her lot is under 40,000 square feet, she is completely surrounded by woods and has only one neighbor, who she said doesn’t mind her roosters.
Beth Angle talked about the unique character of Cape Elizabeth and that many residents work in farming and agriculture. She said it’s not fair to ask people to get rid of their roosters, because they are quieter than other things such as dogs and lawnmowers.
“It’s a daytime sound, which is no louder than all other sounds of our daily lives,” Angle said.
Angle said that because the Kennedys’ rooster left before the ordinance passed, the councilors should have dropped the discussion.
“It sounds to me like the rooster in question is gone. So either the noise issue or the neighbor-to-neighbor issue got resolved without an ordinance restricting roosters,” she said. “So I think you need to be careful about changing the landscape of this town.”
Angle said the ordinance will lead to councilors deciding to restrict other farm animals, but Gajda disagreed.
“I fully agree that there is a long farming history in Cape Elizabeth and I’m thankful that what you’ve proposed is restricted to simply small lots,” he said. “It’s not going to affect the farming community.”
Councilor David Sherman concurred.
“It is certainly not going to impact the ability of a farm to have roosters,” Sherman said. “I would never want to adopt a change to our ordinance that would affect our farms’ abilities to function and be economically viable.”
Sherman went on to say that roosters don’t belong in residential neighborhoods.
“If you have neighbors that are being affected by a rooster crowing, it seems to me that the rooster loses in that equation,” he said.
Councilor Caitlin Jordan said she didn’t believe the council should have been making a decision on the issue so quickly, especially because the rooster in question was gone.
“We don’t need to rush into making this blanket ordinance that’s going to affect a lot of people in town,” Jordan said. “I think we need to step back and look at all the different options that we can take in doing this.”
Jordan said passing the ordinance would be a bad step for the town.
“There seems to be a lot of neighbor-to-neighbor issues coming before the town and we’re making blanket ordinances to address issues that are isolated incidences, and I don’t think that’s a precedent we should continue to be setting,” she said.
Jordan also agreed with some members of the public, saying the ordinance would affect Cape Elizabeth’s “rural community.”
Ultimately, Jordan and Councilor Jamie Wagner voted against the ordinance, with the other five councilors pushing it through. The ordinance will go into effect early next month.