SARANAC LAKE - Village officials have scheduled a public hearing on a local law that would temporarily ban its residents from keeping livestock.
The hearing will take place at the start of the next village board meeting, 5:30 p.m. on May 28 in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall.
Village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans told the board Monday night that there's been increased interest over the last few years in raising backyard chickens and other livestock on private property in the village.
"Our current village law doesn't properly or at all address this type of land use," Evans said. "The comprehensive plan that's not yet adopted and is in draft form does address it, and as a result of these differences, the resolution in front of you calls for a public hearing to propose prohibiting the introduction and keeping of livestock and domesticated animals until such time as a new village law comes into place that addresses them in conformance with the recommendations of the comprehensive plan."
Evans said after the meeting that the local law is basically a moratorium. It would last for one year from the date it's enacted and would not apply to people who are already keeping livestock in the village as of May 13, Monday's date.
"There are chickens in the village," Evans said. "We haven't had a huge problem yet, but we're well aware of problems in other communities."
What kind of problems?
"You could have pigs out in the backyard against your neighbors yard just out of spite," Evans said. "What do you do with animal waste? How do you properly dispose of it? Do you put it right next to your neighbor's property? Is that safe? Is that healthy? Obviously it depends on the scale of the operation as well. One chicken is different than 100. We just need a law that gives us the guidance to effectively manage it."
A public hearing is scheduled for the same night on the draft comprehensive plan, which includes a section on "Agricultural Resources." It says the compact and dense pattern of mixed-use development in the village makes it difficult to grow crops or raise livestock in the traditional sense, but that some limited uses such as backyard chickens could be appropriate on a limited scale. The plan calls for making modifications to the village land use code to establish "reasonable standards for gardening and the raising and keeping of backyard chickens within residential neighborhoods."
Once the new comprehensive plan, which has been in works for six years, is adopted, the village will begin work on a new land use code that follows the recommendations of the plan. Until both the plan and the new code are adopted, however, the local law will "temporarily prohibit the introduction, raising and keeping of domesticated animals within the village ... in order to protect health, safety and welfare of the general public and property values."
The law applies to any domesticated animal, including "sheep, horse, cattle, deer, llama, goat, swine, fowl, duck, goose, swan, turkey, confined domesticated hare or rabbit, pheasant or other bird." It excludes companion animals like dogs and cats.
There is an appeals provision that would allow the board to modify the law, after a public hearing, if it would impose "extraordinary hardship upon a land owner or developer and that a variance from this act will not adversely affect the health, safety and general welfare of the village." The fee for a variance or exemption application would be $250. The request would also be subject to review by the village planning board.
Violations of the local law would be subject to a $250 fine for each day the violation continues.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.