PLATTSBURGH - Doug Butdorf doesn't necessarily want to see a chicken in every yard in the city of Plattsburgh, but he does want to get a discussion going about raising a limited number of chickens within city limits.
The issue is one being raised by Butdorf and a group of city residents interested in producing their own eggs and having a source of organic compost and fertilizer for their gardens. Currently, city zoning ordinances prohibit the keeping of all livestock, including chickens. However, a forum slated for this Tuesday, April 12, will seek input from members of the community as to whether or not the city council should be approached to change zoning laws in favor of raising chickens.
"We want to find out who wants to do it and who doesn't," said Butdorf. "People are on the pro side, people are on the con side. Let's get them together, talk a bit about it so that parties are educated. We want to bring all sides of the discussion to table."
Raising chickens in an urban setting is not a groundbreaking practice, said Butdorf. Throughout New York State, cities like Binghamton, Rochester, Saratoga Springs and even New York City have zoning ordinances in place which allow for the practice. The "urban poultry" movement, as it has come to be known, has even hit across Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vt., where that city allows for a maximum of four chickens to be raised per household.
"The reality is that numerous cities have ordinances that have specific limits to the number of chickens that can be raised," said Butdorf. "And, the amount of the effort needed by the city is minimal."
The process would require making a few amendments to the city's zoning ordinances to allow for poultry management, said Butdorf. Existing zoning laws for the building of sheds and other smaller structures could potentially cover the issue of someone raising chickens wanting to install a coop, he added.
Anne Lenox Barlow, another proponent of poultry procurement behind organizing the forum, said she's learned of others in the city interested in raising chickens, citing a need for an open discussion on the matter.
"I don't think everybody in the city wants a chicken in their backyard, but there's a decent number of people as the local food movement grows and people are concerned about the quality and consistency of their food," said Barlow.
"We want to show we're making a deliberative process to engage the community and really assess what's happening so the common council doesn't have to go through all that work themselves," said Butdorf. "We're not trying to bully anyone politically. We're trying to help the process and engage the community in discussion."
The discussion this Tuesday - titled "Urban Chickens: An Open Forum" - will be held at City Hall beginning at 7 p.m.