Change to chicken bylaw to be proposed by Amherst Planning Board

By Amanda Drane

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At next month’s Amherst Town Meeting, elected committee members will be presented with a proposal from the Amherst Planning Board that calls for a change to a town bylaw and would allow for residents to keep up to 12 chickens at a property.

According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, University of Massachusetts Professor of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences John Gerber has been an outspoken advocate for the change. Gerber, who also serves on the town’s Conservation Commission, has stated that he got involved with the movement for sustainable agriculture because he wanted to be closer to the food chain that feeds his family. Gerber has also dedicated his backyard to his egg-laying chickens.

Planning Board member Richard Roznoy is the only member of the committee who does not support the proposed bylaw. He said in a phone interview that 12 is an inappropriate amount of chickens for a resident to have.

The Amherst Planning Board started discussing the proposal last fall.

In a phone interview, Planning Director John Tucker said the process involved with the proposal is “rather exhausting.”  The planning board is fine-tuning the proposal to be ready for the Town Meeting, which will commence May 2.

When asked about his proximity to the issue, Tucker said that he has a “hand, claw and a wing” in the matter.

The proposal will also allow residents to keep rabbits, but it won’t allow them to keep roosters, peacocks and other fowl that are known to be noisy.

Additionally, the Planning Board is working on the matter of zoning. There will be a provision that all abutting residences be notified when a neighbor is keeping animals.

The proposed bylaw will also include mandatory registration and inspection of the animals and the property that they inhabit. Animal Welfare Officer Carol Hepburn and Health Director Julie Federman will be put in charge of enforcement, if the bylaw passes, according to the Gazette,

Amanda Drane can be reached [email protected]