Farm Ordinance Laws in Vermont. How to change?

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by mermaidgoat, Apr 20, 2009.

  1. mermaidgoat

    mermaidgoat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I live in a small town in Vermont. My understanding was that Vermont was an agricultural state and therefore, people were allowed to have agricultural animals and that these animals were sometimes exempt from ordinances (like noise, etc.). I'm finding that this may not be true and the new Zoning Administrator in our town is now taking it upon herself to rid people of their animals/pets (specifically chickens and ducks) based on section 619 of our ordinance that states the lots must be an acre to accomodate these animals.

    http://www.town.brandon.vt.us/Ordinances/BLUO_May_2006.pdf

    There is no more flying under the radar here anymore. How does one go about changing these laws?

    Any help and/or advice would be so appreciated.
     
  2. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    First of all, read the whole ordinance--there is a grandfather clause (nonconforming uses) that may well apply, and agricultural uses are allowed in both High-Density Multiuse and Neighborhood Residential zoning with a use permit. You'll have to go down to city hall, fill out a form and probably pay a fee. There may or may not be a hearing. Call and ask about the steps needed to obtain a Use Permit for Agricultural Uses.

    The way the Farm Animals section is worded, you need to check state law to see how it applies, and also the mention is of "large-scale animal raising" which somewhat conflicts with the previous phrase of "no farm animals ... may be kept." Concern about odor and health are mentioned, so you need to have a plan for how manure will be ahndled so htat it does not cause these issues on your smaller lot.

    Good luck!
     
  3. cassie

    cassie Overrun With Chickens

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    The suggestion to get a copy of the ordinance is a good one. I have found after years of dealing with various bureaucrats, that what they tell you the law is is not necessarily what the law in fact is. Sometimes it isn't even close. A good first step is to go to the local law library. I have found that the reference librarians are very helpful in assisisting you in finding whatever it is you are looking for.
     
  4. fhdogs

    fhdogs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    For starters, this is definitely a "town" issue, and not the state. Most of the towns I'm aware of have very little in their zoning when it comes to animals. I was worried about that when I got my pig, but I called the zoning admin and he told me that we have no restrictions at all. Considering there are many animals including a camel that live here, we are pretty safe.

    So lets take a look at the Land Use Ordinance.

    Section 619. Farm Animals
    Unless kept or raised as an Accepted Agricultural Practice as defined by the Secretary of
    Agriculture, Food and Markets, no farm animals (including, but not limited to, horses, cows,
    hogs, fowl) may be kept or large-scale animal raising undertaken in any district unless the use
    is permitted in said district and the following criteria are met:
    (1) The lot is at least one acre in area.
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    (2) Animal housing and piles of manure, feed, or bedding are located so as to minimize
    odor and other nuisances to neighboring landowners. In the absence of an otherwise
    acceptable plan, the minimum distance of each from any lot line or street shall be 75
    feet.
    (3) Manure piles are located so as to minimize the possibility of pollution to wells and
    surface waters. In the absence of an otherwise acceptable plan, manure piles shall be
    located no closer than 200 feet from surface waters. If a manure pile is located upslope
    from a well, the isolation distance shall be at least 200 feet; if it is located downslope
    from a well, the isolation distance shall be at least 100 feet.
    Section

    The first thing that stands out to me is that it says "Unless kept or raised as an Accepted Agricultural Practice" (http://www.vermontagriculture.com/ARMES/awq/AAPs.htm )
    The way I read that, as long as you follow those standards you are ok. The standards mostly deal with runoff, groundwater and structure construction. They are not something that you need to apply to, or have a permit for.

    The best thing I've learned in my short tenure in VT is that the best way to get things changed is to go to the next select board meeting and ask to be heard. (You may need to get on the agenda beforehand) Also ask around for other people who would like to help and attend.

    You may also consider going to the next planning commission meeting and ask them to consider a change to the ordinance that would allow for variances. (Limits on numbers of animals, or types)

    Do you have chickens already? If you have since May 2006 you are ok. "Section 501. Nonconforming Uses
    (a) Any nonconforming use lawfully existing on the effective date of this Ordinance or
    subsequent amendment to it may be continued so long as it remains otherwise lawful."

    Finally, if this affects you directly (you want chickens) I'd recommend putting together a letter, passing it out to your neighbors asking for their consent to you keeping chicks (free eggs?). Then apply for a variance.

    Vermont is a very difficult state like this because almost all zoning (and other) regulations are managed at the town level. Considering how small most towns are it's often difficult to mange everything in a fair manner. I wouldn't be surprised if there were more variances approved in VT than any other state because of this.

    Good Luck! Hope some of that made sense.​
     
  5. fhdogs

    fhdogs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Since my fiancee is an attorney, this is a fun topic to us. To the best of our knowledge there is only one law library in the state. They unfortunately do not keep the individual towns regulations.

    The closest you'll get to this is to sit down with the planning commission/zoning board in Brandon.
     
  6. cassie

    cassie Overrun With Chickens

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    Hmmm. I live in California. There are at least three law libraries within 20 miles of where I live. And that's just the ones I know of. I am sure there are others. I thought most areas were like that. Live and learn. BTW, I live in a rural agricultural area.
     
  7. mermaidgoat

    mermaidgoat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Not so here! In fact, I am a librarian at our small public library here in town and I've not had tons of luck ever getting help from the law library in our state.
     
  8. mermaidgoat

    mermaidgoat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Since my fiancee is an attorney, this is a fun topic to us. To the best of our knowledge there is only one law library in the state. They unfortunately do not keep the individual towns regulations.

    The closest you'll get to this is to sit down with the planning commission/zoning board in Brandon.

    Thank you for your advice. It looks as though I will need to sit with them and find out what I need to do.
     
  9. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    Zoning in Arizona is all controlled by the city/town or county (if you're outside a city or town). For public & semi-public entities, the county controls certain things like swimming pools. I doubt we have any fewer variances in Az than you do in Vt [​IMG]

    The zoning code mentioned is in many manys similar to mine, not in detail, but in structure and how zones are divided. Much different than the code in another current thread that looks more like tightly controlled HOA covenants where all rights are reserved to the HOA and none to the citizens.

    My comment about state law refers to the very first sentence under Farm Animals, which you specifically mention.

    The Use Permit for Agricultural uses is mandated in "Section. 303 High Density Multi-Use Districts" (c) Uses Requiring a Conditional Use Permit in High Density Multi-Use Districts: Agricultural
    Uses..." and "Section 304. Neighborhood Residential Districts" "(c) Uses Requiring a Conditional Use Permit in Neighborhood Residential Districts:
    Agricultural Uses..."

    Section 306 is a table that shows used permitted, prohibited and conditionall for each zoning district.

    I don't think a law library is really needed. Most government entities have their ordinances and laws online. They certainly seem to for this town.
     
  10. mermaidgoat

    mermaidgoat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Upon researching further, and talking with a couple of friends that have (or are planning to have) chickens, I've found a bit more information.

    It seems that it depends somewhat on how your property is zoned - whether residential, rural, or aquafer. A friend of mine who got chicks last spring and is zoned residential on an acre+ called the zoning admin and was told she would have to apply for a conditional use permit ($170) to have her chickens. Another friend of mine who lives on less than an acre is zoned aquafer and apparently that is more strictly regulated. Her permit would be around $300 (if she could get a variance to have chicks - being on .66 acre).

    I am zoned rural development. I live next to a farm on more than an acre. I don't know what this means for my potential chicks, as I haven't called the zoning admin. yet.

    I personally think the permitting cost is financially prohibitive - especially in this economy, and for it being an agricultural state to begin with. I think the above mentioned friends and I are going to see what we can do about getting the law changed, and the permitting fee decreased.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2009

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