Ordinance 2509, which would have allowed backyard hens on private property in the borough was defeated last night by a 4-2 vote. This ordinance was postponed for a vote from its original November 16th Mayor & Council meeting. The 4-2 vote had only First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola and Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey voting in favor of it. The remaining four (4) councilmembers – Michael Connelly, William Fahoury, Joseph Petrosky, and Thomas ‘Thos’ Shipley – voted in the negative.
Although this meeting did not have an official public hearing – that was held on November 16th – a number of residents approached the dais both in favor and against passing the bill. Most of the same residents who had spoken on the ordinance previously reiterated their positions.
Mayor Carl Hokanson gave his opinion during the discussion phase of the vote and started out by stating that he would not even have a vote unless there was a tie. He said that both sides had good points but, in the end, “What I saw on Bender Avenue was a beautiful sight but . . . laws were broken.”
Councilwoman-At-Large Storey stated that a majority of emails she received regarding the issue were in support of having backyard hens while verbal comments to her were 50-50. She added, “I think it’s unfortunate that this issue . . . has been muddied by the fact that the chickens were there before. I don’t think that that’s really relevant to the ordinance. We’re looking at this whole ordinance not whether this particular person’s chickens were there before.”
“I was going to say ‘go for it’ but I, just in all good conscience, can’t see it,” stated Fifth Ward Councilman Thomas ‘Thos’ Shipley, “My problem is not with the issue, it’s with the ordinance and so I have to vote no.”
“Same here,” added Fourth Ward Councilman Michael Connelly.
After the vote, later in the meeting, Borough Attorney Richard Huxford was asked what would happen next with the outstanding notice of violation warnings that Arnulfo Toro had regarding the chickens on his property. Mr. Huxford responded, “[I’m] assuming the Board Of Health will go back out there, make another determination as to whether he is in violation, and if he is, he will be summoned.”
He clarified later, “If he [was] issued a summons, it would go to the municipal court and the court would decide, accordingly, what the punishment would be.”
A phone call this morning to borough hall confirmed that the Westfield Board Of Health – the agency in charge of the borough’s health inspector – was notified of the governing body’s defeat of the ordinance which, essentially, ended the current stay on any summonses.