Upstate, NY - Need help interpreting our code for variance hearing

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by SmithCoop, Jun 5, 2010.

  1. SmithCoop

    SmithCoop New Egg

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    Hello everybody. My family and I are looking to house some egg layers on our property in the Village of Victor, NY. Current codes don't allow it, but we're trying to get a variance. We're also documenting the adventure on our blog at http://SmithCoop.com. Here's the current code:
    § 170-21 Livestock

    [Added 11-9-1964]A. No lot may be used or occupied and no structure may
    be erected, maintained or used for harboring or raising for sale or in
    connection with any transaction for profit of pigeons, dogs, swine,
    goats, rabbits, cows, horses, poultry, foxes, mink, skunks or other
    fur-bearing animals so as to constitute a public nuisance.
    Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing herein contained shall prohibit
    the raising of domestic animals or poultry on any farm in the Village of
    Victor, within the definition of the term “farm.”

    B. No farm animal may be stabled no storage of manure or other odor- or
    dust-producing substances allowed in any zoned district, nor nearer than
    40 feet from any lot line on any farm in any residential district.

    The way I read this is that as long as it's not for profit, and not a nuisance, we should be good. My wife reads it as saying the only way to do it is be be a farm according of their definition.

    We will be heard before the zoning board in a couple weeks. We just received a letter stating that we can't do it because we're not a farm. And we can't be a farm because we're not selling anything. This seems to be their sticking point.

    This will be my first time going before a zoning board. Due to the timing, there's not another meeting to attend before ours. So any help or suggestions on how to read/interpret/work around the code would be greatly appreciated!​
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2010
  2. jaj121159

    jaj121159 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I did a search and went into Vicor's Code on-line. They do not have a chapter 170. Are you quoting state code?

    Okay as a professional planner and zoning administrator this is what I would recommend based on the code shown in your post.

    First the code in my opinion, does not ban any of the listed animals on any lot unless they are raised for profit and do not constitute a nuisance. So I interpret this to mean you may have any of these animals as long as you do not sell them and the animals you do have do not constitute a nuisance. Remember if they say this is only on a farm, it can also be said dogs are illegal in town.

    Second, in the code available online there is no definition of a farm. Also the definition section doesn't have a clause that most zoning definition chapters have. This clause usually states, "Any word or term not specifically defined in this chapter or ordinance shall be defined as used in normal usage."

    Third, "b" may sink you. It states no farm animal (most people would say a chicken is a farm animal) may stabled no storage of manure in any zoning district and requires a 40' setback from the lot line on any farm in any residential district.

    Next, you must get a definition of a farm from the town, they may use the state definition. If they do have an actual farm definition, you probably aren't going to make it due to lot size or annual revenue.

    Typically, when you are requesting a variance you must have an unusual problem or condition that exists. I don't believe raising chickens in town would fulfill this requirement. However, since I am in Nebraska and you are in New York, and since you are seeking a land use variance, this may not apply. Another usual requirement is that in order to grant the variance, the situation must be unique and not applicable to others in your zoning district. Again I don't believe raising chickens would fit here, but again it may be different in your town or New York state.

    Recommendation: I would suggest you petition the town to amend the zoning ordinance to allow for chickens in residential zoning districts. Samples of this type of amendment language can be found on BYC. Here is a link to the City of Binghampton's chicken ordinance. You can ask for an amendment (there may be a fee) and start the process prior to or in lieu of the hearing. I would try the amendment first since if is not approved you might still be able to get the variance since you would have exhausted resolution of the matter through another means.

    I hope this helps. Good luck and keep us posted on what you choose to do.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2010
  3. SmithCoop

    SmithCoop New Egg

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    May 17, 2010
    Wow! Thanks for your input! Here's a link to the relevnat search on our codes:

    http://www.ecode360.com/?custId=VI0198&search=poultry

    I think are right about "b". My wife is going to have a great "I told you so" moment. In the letter we received they provide their definition of farm:
    FARM
    Any parcel of land which is used for gain in the raising of agricultural products, livestock, poultry and dairy products. It includes necessary farm structures within the prescribed limits and the storage of equipment used. It excludes the raising of fur-bearing animals, riding academies, livery or boarding stables and dog kennels.

    The letter then states:
    The operative phrase is "...land which is used for gain..." Since the property owner wishes to raise chickens for the sole purpose of providing eggs for his family, it is not for a profit venture (a gain), therefore, is not a farm, the use as a poultry farm is not permitted.

    When I first called the Village they recommended the variance route, so I think we'll try that first. Everything is already set up for that. We'll be compiling BYC friendly ordinances from nearby city and towns to present them. I'll call Monday about amending the code. I think that's a great idea! Thanks again for your incredibly helpful response!​
     
  4. Penturner

    Penturner Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I read it as. 1. you are allowed to have animals including chickens as long as you do not sell them or have any other means by which you are making a profit on them. Hens to have your own eggs for example would be allowed. selling the eggs to the neighbors would not. I honestly doubt they care if you sell a bird or two in the management of your flock but this portion could be enforced if they felt you where getting out of line with how many birds you produced etc.

    Also they cannot be a nuisance. But this is actually true of any animal including cats and dogs.

    The farm part is to show that these limitations on keeping animals does not apply to "Farms".
     
  5. SmithCoop

    SmithCoop New Egg

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    Quote:Thanks for your input, Penturner! I was thinking the same thing but I don't think the code inspector's feel the same way. I'll know more in a couple weeks!
     
  6. rancher hicks

    rancher hicks Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote:The letter then states:
    The operative phrase is "...land which is used for gain..." Since the property owner wishes to raise chickens for the sole purpose of providing eggs for his family, it is not for a profit venture (a gain), therefore, is not a farm, the use as a poultry farm is not permitted.

    When I first called the Village they recommended the variance route, so I think we'll try that first. Everything is already set up for that. We'll be compiling BYC friendly ordinances from nearby city and towns to present them. I'll call Monday about amending the code. I think that's a great idea! Thanks again for your incredibly helpful response!​

    What am I missing here that says you can not have chickens?

    The first one states. That the definition of farm, includes "poultry for gain" or to make money or earn a living. (Since you don't intend to earn a living this would not include you). Since the term "Farm" excludes ( does not include) fur bearing animals, riding academies, livery or boarding stables and dog kennels, You CAN have one of these.

    The second one is telling you. "A farm is not permitted", BUT " you could have chickens to provide food for your family as long as you don't sell eggs". (visilbly) I might add. Since you are not selling in the "business sense" you are not a farm and you are not included in this equation.

    Finally there is a difference between "ordinances" and "zoning" don't confuse the two.

    Now if you are "zoned" (non- residential, or commercial or residential or agricultural) correctly you may be able to have chickens.

    In my case I am zoned "agricultural restricted". Which means I can sell only what I grow on my property. I don't hang out a shingle cuz I don't want the attention. I did mention to the neighbors that i was legal however and keep only one or two roosters in a fenced in pasture surrounded by woods.

    I suggest you check to see what your zoned. The neighbor nextdoor or down the road may be on the other side of the line on the "zoning map". Check the map if you can.

    You may just need a permit or none at all. I really hate to say it but there is alot of ignorance out there and some folks don't know the meaning of certain words and this causes misinterpretation of the rule.

    Present company excluded.

    Hoping for the best

    Rancher (Smith) Hicks
     
  7. jaj121159

    jaj121159 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Remember in most places, the only person to be right when they interpret a zoning ordinance is the zoning administrator. Period! This person is charged with interpretation and enforcement of the zoning regs. It's kind of like an umpire. If the ump says a runner beat the throw he's safe even if replays show he was clearly out. (Sorry disgruntled Tiger fan here). However, unlike baseball ZA's can be appealed either to the Zoning Board of Adjustment or to court whichever applies to your state. So if the ZA says he reads the ordinances as not allowing chickens it doesn't allow chickens until the ZA is challenged by legal appeal and overturned. Some elected officials and citizens believe they can overturn the ZA by having a city council, county or township board overturn the ZA. That may be true in some cases, but in most states it is not.
     
  8. SmithCoop

    SmithCoop New Egg

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    May 17, 2010
    @rancher hicks: Thanks for the reply. I am zoned residential. When I first e-mailed the town they replied saying, "Below is the code section that prohibits the raising of livestock within the Village of Victor" and pasted in code § 170-21 Livestock. I then called and briefly explained why I felt it didn't apply to me and asked how to proceed. They pointed me to the Application for Use Variance to be filled out and submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals. That's been filled out and we meet about it on June 17.

    I am guilty of confusing or misusing terms. I'm new at this, so please be gentle [​IMG]. I very much appreciate your input.
     
  9. rancher hicks

    rancher hicks Chicken Obsessed

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    Sorry I should have said in Government. Not you personally. What I meant was that "they" may not know what the words of these laws and codes mean, so you may have to explain it to them. That was my point.

    Still hoping for the best

    Rancher

    Keep us posted to when you can get your birds. I got chicks, you got chicks, we're Smith's it's what we do.
     
  10. tinahoak

    tinahoak Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 22, 2010
    Brockport, NY
    Do you actually live in Victor ? or Farmington ? As the Flora's have a "riding stable" on Crowley road and there is another on Gillis. ( referring to part of the code that was mentioned)
     

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