December 20, 2014

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Amherst Council votes to put six-month hold on chicken restriction

AMHERST — Chickens can live for another day in Amherst.

A moratorium on an ordinance that restricts chicken ownership on fewer than 5 acres of land will go into effect in Amherst in 30 days, allowing chicken owners to keep them for a bit longer. The moratorium passed, 4 to 3, in a vote Monday by City Council.

The ordinance has become an issue for some Amherst residents recently after the Amherst Building Department started enforcing the ordinance over the summer.

The moratorium was proposed in September to allow City Council time to consider changing the law.

The law will be on hiatus for six months, and Councilman Phil Van Treuren, R-at large, stressed that the moratorium does not mean Amherst residents can buy more chickens during those six months.

“I don’t want you to get the impression that this is a victory for you,” Van Treuren said to some chicken owners who came to Monday’s meeting.

Council, he said, might not change the ordinance after discussing it, and he doesn’t want owners to get their hopes up.

Some Council members who voted against the moratorium expressed concern about the issue of disease surrounding chicken ownership in the town.

Councilwoman Jennifer Wasilk said that chickens carry diseases that are harmful, especially to children and the elderly.

“I’ve had people describe them as pigs with wings,” Wasilk said.

For Councilman Joe Miller, D-at large, the argument of diseases associated with chickens is over the top.

“I’m tired of the hysteria,” Miller said, explaining why he was voting for the moratorium. Miller said it is up to parents, not the government, to teach children how to stay clean to avoid disease. “I get nervous when we want to make government our parent.”

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.