Board says no to chickens at Cumberland Hill home

Board says no to chickens at Cumberland Hill home

CUMBERLAND – The chickens must go.

Ending weeks of drama, the Zoning Board last week rejected the petition of Paromita Ghosh and David Dugre to keep their five chickens on an undersized lot in the Cumberland Hill neighborhood, avoiding what members said would be a precedent-setting decision.

Dugre said he and Ghosh were a bit surprised at the unanimity of the decision against them keeping chickens at 86 Spring St., thinking that because the Planning Board had previously been split 4-4 on the matter, that some Zoning Board members might also side with them when they voted on July 14.

He said his wife is especially sad about the decision, but conceded that they had thought it might be coming after the level of objection and lack of support from neighbors. Though the couple doesn’t plan to move away right away, he said they do eventually plan to move to a larger lot that doesn’t have the same stringent setback requirements so they can freely keep chickens.

Dugre said he and Ghosh had someone from Scituate ready to come pick up their chickens to bring them to a new home late last week.

Zoning Board members said the couple came up short on two, maybe three of five standards for zoning relief and the variance.

Standard one requires that the lot in question have unique characteristics, which this one doesn’t. The lot is only 40 feet wide, the same size as many others in the area that also can’t accommodate 25-foot setbacks on either size of a chicken coop.

Standard two requires that the applicants must show that the hardship is not the result of their prior action, but the applicants built the coop and placed it within required setbacks.

Standard three concerning the general characteristics of the surrounding area and consistency with the town’s comprehensive plan is in some doubt, said members, with Planning Board members split on the matter. However, extensive testimony by neighbors seemed to show they do not believe the chickens fit in with this particular neighborhood.

Member Bob Chaput made the motion to deny the application for a side yard variance that would have exempted 7 feet of space on either side of the coop from setback requirements.

Chairman John McCoy also noted a provision in town bylaws prohibiting accessory property uses on lots smaller than 6,000 square feet, he said further calling this application into question. McCoy and other members, agreeing with neighbors of Ghosh and Dugre, said they were troubled about the seeming inconsistency with the characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood.

Neighbors had complained about noise, smell, and attraction of rodents and other wildlife, though members of the board and others in town government, upon visiting the home, had questioned the extent of those issues. Comments in support of the couple’s bid were few and far between.

The town’s 2009 ordinance on animals in residential zones states that “a maximum of five birds, fowl or other animals may be kept for each single-family dwelling unit provided that no roosters shall be kept, and provided that such allowable livestock are housed and that any building and/or enclosures which house such livestock be located no less than 25 feet from the property line. Properties containing more than one residential unit do not qualify under this provision.”

Zoning Board member Joseph Craveiro said that when requirements were drafted, there were plenty of lots less than 50 feet wide, so the 25-foot requirement for setbacks was included for a reason. Such a lot is “such a small piece of land,” he said, and is far different from a lot of a half-acre or more.

Member Ryan Antrop agreed that allowing a chicken coop on this undersized lot would open the door to others and “definitely alter the neighborhood or other neighborhoods in town” if others were allowed to do the same thing.

Member Evan Elgin said he too agreed that this won’t work, saying he has personal experience with chickens making a lot of noise. He said he feels the town should follow the letter of the law in this matter, and that the applicants did not meet the standard for not altering the characteristics of the area.

Member Edward LeBlanc said there’s a case that the presence of the chickens has already altered the characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood, with some neighbors claiming that there are rats around now where there weren’t before. He said if board members were neighbors, they would feel the characteristics of the neighborhood were altered with the arrival of the chickens, “and not for the better.”

Chaput said most of the issues raised have been nuisance complaints, and that the applicants missed the mark on at least two and probably three of the five standards. He emphasized that there really is no uniqueness to the 4,000-square-foot lot that might open the door for special permission, as it’s the “same as dozens of other” properties in the area. It’s “simply not wide enough,” he said, and the owners caused their own hardship by installing a coop first and then seeking permission later after they were cited for being out of compliance.

Comments

I cant imagine the horrified looks on the ancestral resident of Cumberland if you told them people in their town were to be denied the ability to raise their own chickens. This is a complete collapse of local character. Cumberland continues to determine that any activity in their town that isnt sitting, walking, or driving is unacceptable. The town allowed the complete over development of its neighborhoods for decades to the utter demise of its resident's quality of life. Cant even raise your own eggs anymore- I really wish I could be proud of my home town.

I think our ancestors might understand. The request was rejected because it is an "undersized lot."

Cumberland has plenty of local character, perhaps now more than ever. If there is a collapse then it is one of personal character vis-a-vis respect for your neighbors and their ability to enjoy the peaceful tranquility of their homes. If you want raise animals, buy a property large enough to do so without ruining your neighbors quality of life. There are plenty of properties available which support such activities. Cumberland is a suburb, not a farm town. And it’s that way because those “ancestral residents” sold their farms to developers.

"Buy a bigger property"

In in age where people are entirely disconnected to their food, and in an age where food costs continue to rise; i suppose we can reserve the luxury of producing your own food to those who can financially afford 350k houses. To think you need to make six figures to engage in centuries old farm activities.

If the local character Cumberland and its residents are seeking is nothing but silent condo developments then they've certaintly achieved it.