Second time the charm for chickens

WESTFIELD – Hillside Road resident Daniel Whalley went before the Planning Board this week for a second time in his bid to raise chickens in his back yard. “Substantial changes” to parts of his proposal allowed for the second public hearing, and ultimately resulted in unanimous approval by the board.
The special permit approved last night allows Whalley to raise six hen chickens on his property, in a coop behind his house. Differing from the original proposal, the chicken coop will be moved as far back on the property as the local ordinance and the Planning Board allows in a rural-residential zone. The chickens will not be “free-range,” as originally proposed. Also, Whalley has installed 6-foot tall stockade fencing around the area to shield it from the adjacent City View Boulevard. The project conforms to the city’s “chicken ordinance,” Whalley said, which, in part, serves to protect public health and prevent nuisance situations.
“I feel that I should be able to do what I want to do as long as I’m within the confines of the law,” he said. “I’m well within the ordinance.”
The moved chicken coop on Whalley’s property is also situated close to several hedges. The Planning Board’s approval of the special permit also requires that Whalley extend the row of existing hedges to further screen the coop from the neighbors’ view.
Despite the changes to the proposal, several neighbors remain opposed to the project. One of them is Stephen Booher, who lives on City View Boulevard behind Whalley’s property. According to Booher, the new placement of the coop puts the structure in direct view of his house, and the newly-installed fencing has done little to alleviate the problem.
“I have nothing against chickens. I have nothing against my neighbors,” he said, adding that his issue lies with the sight and potential smell of the chicken coop. He noted that he and his wife have consulted a realtor out of concern about how such a view would impact their property’s value. A letter submitted to the Planning Board by another neighbor mentioned similar concerns, as well as those regarding how a chicken coop could begin attracting more unwanted wildlife to the neighborhood.
Whalley said he plans to keep the chicken coop area clean and tidy, and will do what is necessary to make sure it is “aesthetically pleasing” to others. He also said that chickens, particularly such a low number of them, barely produce a smell, and “won’t attract any more wild animals than are already around there.” Being hens, not roosters, he added, the most noise they’ll make is clucking occasionally during the day and pecking at the ground.
A petition and letters in support of Whalley’s plan were submitted to the Planning Board and a number of residents spoke in favor of the request at the hearing this week, including Whalley’s father-in-law and mother-in-law, Russell and Iva Duval of 325 City View Boulevard. The Duvals were recently granted a similar special permit to raise chickens on their property.
“If it’s your yard and you follow the rules, you should be able to do what you want,” Iva Duval said. “We’re all respectful adults.”

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