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Fair or Fowl, Decision Awaits Special Town Meeting Voters

January 18, 2019 GMT

CHELMSFORD - Two items that seek to amend town zoning bylaw governing the keeping of chickens and other small animals - to varying degrees of restriction - top a fourarticle Special Town Meeting scheduled for Feb. 4.

The first article, submitted by the Planning Board, seeks to remove game birds, rabbits and other small animals from requirement that properties must have a minimum of 40,000 square feet to house them. “What this article would do is remove the chickens and other fowl and small animals out of the zoning bylaw and therefore leave that exclusively in the domain of the Board of Health, as opposed to having what we’re now seeing, are these conflicting or concurrent jurisdiction matters,” Town Manager Paul Cohen said. According to Planning Board Chairman Mike Raisbeck, it also removes hogs from that particular piece of the law because the animals are further limited elsewhere in town zoning bylaws. The second article, submitted by citizen petitioner Robert Myers, also removes smaller animals from the 40,000 square feet requirement, but places additional restrictions on how and where they are kept on residential properties. Myers proposes the zoning bylaw be amended to include the following:


Up to six smaller animals weighing less than 25 pounds each at maturity - such as chickens, geese, game birds and rabbits - are allowed but the animals, their wastes and the structures housing the animals must have setbacks of at least 75 feet from all property lot lines and at least 150 feet from any yearround surface water bodies.

No roosters permitted unless the parcel is defined as a farm under law.

Structures for housing the smaller animals - such as henhouses, coops, hutches and runs - may not be situated in front or side yards. Also on the warrant are articles seeking funding for the collective bargaining agreement with the town’s police sergeant union and an easement for a proposed subdivision that would extend Tobin Avenue in North Chelmsford.

Cohen said the Joint Labor Management Committee arbitrator notified the town to expect the final decision on the Chelmsford Superior Officers’ contract by the end of the week. He said that will allow both the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee time to review the financial impact of the binding arbitration ahead of the Special Town Meeting.

The Tobin Avenue item seeks an access and utility easement on a small piece of town-owned land at the end of the dead-end road for the proposed subdivision, said Philip Eliopoulos, attorney for SJC Development, said at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday. He said it would also allow the North Chelmsford Water District to connect two dead-end water lines in the area, on Tobin Avenue and John Street. Kathleen Alves, a homeowner on neighboring Lost Valley Drive who said she was speaking on behalf of the other homeowners on the small private way, expressed concerns that the easement would go against an earlier covenant on the land limiting further subdivision. She said she did not believe the town had the free and clear right to grant the easement on the property.


Attorney Ginny Kremer, a member of town counsel Paul Haverty’s law firm, said she believed the covenant was superseded by the deed to the town, but that she would research the matter.

The Special Town Meeting will be held Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center, located at 75 Groton Road.

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