A resident who raises chickens in his yard lead to a workshop discussion that has resulted in a proposed law to allow residents to have chickens in the borough.
On September 7th, Arnulfo Toro, who lives on Bender Avenue, approached council during a workshop discussion, saying, “I’d like to . . . make my case for backyard chickens in hopes that we can overturn and replace the current code.”
The father of four girls and owner of Gardenbox Farms (link), along with his wife Pamela, has four pet chickens in his backyard. Earlier this year, Arnulfo was given a formal warning by the code enforcement officer to remove the pets from the property because under Roselle Park Borough Code Book Section BH:5-48,
“Chickens, ducks, geese or other fowl shall not be kept for domestic use.”
He approached council to see how they could help to not have the family pets removed from the home.
He stated, “I’m a passionate gardener [who] believes that we all have the right and capability to provide our families with good quality food from our own backyards. In the past four years, I’ve been educating myself on the current movement of sustainability and food production. I have converted my suburban lot into a permanent culture garden that I intend to hopefully use as a template and teaching grounds for my community. My family and I grow our own food without the use of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides nor fungicides. I have created a balanced ecosystem where plants, insects, and animals all play a key role in maintaining the harmony within this closed loop system. A system where waste is reduced, all components are symbiotically and crucially important to each other. My yard is not only productive but aesthetically beautiful and well-maintained.”
Arnulfo spoke of how the chickens not only make eggs for the family but are part of the family. He concluded his prepared speech by saying, “Council, I ask that you please open the road to this very important movement and allow me to be the example and the template of what we can achieve in our community.”
At that meeting, the governing body – after being advised by the Borough Attorney Richard Huxford – put in a request to have the code enforcement officer hold off issuing a summons or cease & desist order until the matter was resolved – hopefully through an ordinance.
On September 21st, Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey read proposed regulations based on information provided by Arnulfo, which lead to the November 2nd introduction of ordinance 2509.
The ordinance had its first reading at the first municipal meeting in November. The proposed law will allow up to six (6) hens but no roosters and no free-range chickens.
All hen owners will be required to undergo a site inspection first and must have chicken coops that accommodate three square feet for every one chicken housed.Chicken coop runs must accommodate four square feet for every one chicken housed and must be – at least – ten feet from any property line as well as at least thirty-five feet from any neighboring windows or doors.
Chicken coop runs must accommodate four square feet for every one chicken housed and must be – at least – ten feet from any property line as well as at least thirty-five feet from any neighboring windows or doors. There were additional ventilation and sanitary requirements for the coop runs.
The annual registration fee will be $10 for each chicken with a maximum $40 annual fee. A late fee of $2 per month will be imposed for each month after January 31st at a $10 maximum. It is not certain if the fee is for each chicken. Anyone who fails or refuses to comply with the new law will be liable to a penalty of not less than $25 not no more than $100 for each offense.
Inspections and enforcement will be left up to the Director of Code Enforcement, Health Officer, and Police Officer, or their respective designees.
Not everyone has been in support of the proposed law. Resident Dave Robertson has been vocal in insisting that council do research on the matter to look beyond the Toro family’s predicament.
Almost three years ago, in December of 2014, another resident who wanted to own a miniature pig – also known as a teacup pig – went before the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB). She applied for a variance to own the pig and was approved after the board heard her application; all without changing any laws in the borough.
At the November 2nd meeting, Mr. Robertson offered his own personal research on the caution and risks of owning backyard chickens. In particular, he stated, “While I appreciate the gentleman’s desire to get back to nature, livestock has no business in an urban community with a population density such as what we have in Roselle Park. Even with his stated efforts of running a sanitary operation, I would like to hear on-the-record testimony from the Board Of Health on this issue before it’s brought to a final vote.”
The public hearing and vote by the governing body are scheduled for tonight at the November 16th Mayor & Council meeting which is set to start at 7 p.m. at the Roselle Park Municipal Complex located at 110 East Westfield Avenue.
A copy of the ordinance is included below:
Download RP Ordinance 2509