By Alan J. Keays, VTDigger
RUTLAND — Jeffrey Fredette told city officials last week he shouldn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to the crowing of his neighbor’s roosters every morning.
“We do pay a pretty healthy amount of taxes to live where we live,” Fredette said. “I just feel, personally, the city limits is no place for farm animals.”
Fredette and his wife, who live on Haywood Avenue, took their case to the city Charter and Ordinance Committee this past week. Last month the couple aired their concerns to the Board of Aldermen, which referred the matter to the committee.
The property with the roosters is on Curtis Avenue, behind Fredette’s backyard.
The panel took no action this past week, with members saying they want a process that’s already underway to play out first.
Michael Brookman, city health officer and assistant building inspector, has issued five municipal tickets over the past month to Zachary Fitch, the property owner on Curtis Avenue where the roosters and chickens are located.
Fitch did not attend the city committee meeting this past week. He could not be reached for comment.
A fenced-in chicken coop is located in the backyard of Fitch’s property on Curtis Avenue, though Fredette said the roosters and chickens have also been seen roaming free.
“It’s not working,” Fredette said of the fenced-in area at the meeting.
Each ticket issued to Fitch carries a $50 fine. The listed violation is “crowing rooster.” Brookman said at the meeting he could issue a ticket each day until the “nuisance” is removed.
“[P]lease have all roosters removed from your property immediately as well as take necessary steps or measures to keep all fowl within enclosures,” Brookman wrote in a letter to Fitch. “Failure to do so can result in Municipal Fines of up to $50 per day.”
City ordinances do not specifically ban roosters, but an ordinance does read, “No fowl should be kept within such a place or manner as to be offensive or cause a nuisance to persons residing in the vicinity.”
Before issuing tickets, Brookman told the committee, he wrote the letter to Fitch seeking “voluntary compliance” on June 30.
“The office has received several complaints about chickens being kept at your above referenced property,” the letter stated. “After our conversation this morning my office has received more complaints from your neighbors and the Mayor’s office requesting that the roosters be removed from your property.”
But more complaints kept coming, Brookman told the panel.
Committee members said that before deciding to make any ordinance changes, they wanted to follow the existing one.
“What I don’t want to do is overreact and just change things so that people can’t have chickens in city limits,” said Alderman William Notte, a committee member. “I think for people who want to keep a few chickens, have some laying hens or meat hens, I think that’s perfectly fine.”
However, the alderman added, he understood the complaints in this case, where neighbors report several chickens and three roosters on one property.
Notte called that scenario a “total headache” for the neighbors.
The current process allows Brookman to refer the matter to the city’s Animal Control Board, which consists of members of the Board of Aldermen. That panel can issue a “writ” and have the “nuisance” animals removed from a property, Alderman Ed Larson, a Charter and Ordinance Committee member, said at the meeting this past week.
“What I don’t want to do is pull the rug out from any agency of the city already dealing with the issue,” Larson said. “That bothers me.”
Melinda Humphrey, a member of the Board of Aldermen and the ordinance committee, concurred with Notte and Larson.
“We haven’t really used up our options under the existing ordinance,” she said.
Fredette told the panel he has nothing against animals and grew up on a farm. He said he’s lived at his home in the city for more than two decades and this is the first year he can remember dealing with chickens and roosters in the neighborhood.
The smell and the daily morning crowing are just too much, Fredette added.
“It’s not right,” he said. “It’s the city. Where do we draw the line with farming in the city?”
Notte replied, “If they’re making noise at 5 in the morning, if you can smell the chicken droppings from your property, that’s an unacceptable situation.”