Town of Essex’s Chicken Ordinance

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It’s a growing trend, people wanting to eat as local and organic as possible. 

Some are saying owning chickens is a sure way to do that.

The town of Essex Vermont is one of a few places in Vermont that’s taking a closer look at it’s chicken ordinance after some say it’s too strict. 

Dave Bristol of Essex has 9 chickens at his house. 

“It had a coop when we moved in so we thought we’ll fix it up and this will be our fourth summer with the chickens,” said Bristol. 

Bristol and his family are thrilled that the Essex Town leaders are in the process of loosening restrictions to their chicken ordinance. 

“A lot of people who had half acre lots quarter acres lots were interested in having some in their backyard for egg laying purposes and under our current regulations, they cannot do that,” said town leader Greg Duggan.

Duggan says people have been asking for less strict regulations for about two years, and part of a broader review of the town’s zoning regulations, they might get this fall. 

“It’s pretty much modeled after the village, they allow four chickens per lot, we’d allow six., you have to get a permit, they can’t be in the front yard, they have to be enclosed,” says Duggan

Despite many who see this as a positive step, there are others such as Essex resident Carol Kelley who have concerns. 

“When we lived in Maine, we lived in a nice community like this, houses about same distance apart, there was a neighbor who had some chickens, not a lot, but they smelled bad always,” said Kelley

Under the proposed ordinance, her next-door neighbor could hypothetically have chickens. 

“Decide some kind of reasonable area that won’t plunk chickens right beside my house,” said Kelley

Bristol says he understands Kelley’s point of view, but hope simply being considerate will break the stigma.

“I think it’s a legitimate concern but as long as people are responsible and thoughtful then it’s not a big deal and as long as you keep fresh bedding in the coop and clean it out on a regular basis, there is no odor,” said Bristol

The next meeting to discuss all proposed changes to zoning regulations is June 9 with the planning commission.  

Once Planning Commissions give approval, a public hearing will be held. If that is successful, the select board has the final say on what goes into effect.

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