Bedford Zoning Board To Revisit Chickens Issue In April

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The Bedford Zoning Board of Appeals will hear Katonah resident Pauline Schneider's application for a use variance to continue keeping chickens on her property at its April 3 meeting. Photo Credit: Sue Guzman

BEDFORD, N.Y. – A Katonah resident's request for a variance to continue keeping chickens in her backyard will be taken up again by the Bedford Zoning Board of Appeals on April 3.

Pauline Schneider opted to wait until April to present her application because two of the board's five members were absent at Wednesday's meeting, according to Zoning Board officials.

Since only three members must be present for the board to adopt a resolution, all other applicants decided to have the board rule on their cases Wednesday. 

Schneider, a six-year resident of 19 South Road, read a letter Wednesday stating her request that her property in a quarter-acre zone be excepted from the zoning rule that chickens can only be kept in one-half-acre and one-, two- and four-acre zones.

Last year, Schneider and her neighbors noticed rats in the neighborhood and tried to catch them in traps. But one neighbor brought the matter to the town and suggested that Schneider's animals were attracting the rats. Schneider was then told she was in violation of the zoning code. 

Schneider said she has not seen any rats in her neighborhood in the past few months. Schneider, a local gardening sustainability volunteer/activist, says chickens are clean animals and do not create bad smells, attract flies and rodents, or pose health or safety risks to the neighborhood.

Chickens allow their owners to produce their own food and provide a natural fertilizer and pest control, she says.

While Schneider's request was opposed by a small group of her neighbors, three local supporters (none from the Katonah neighborhood) defended Schneider's efforts to practice sustainability at home.

Board Chair Peter Michaelis said Schneider's application failed to meet one of the requirements for a  use variance. Specifically, it did not contain enough proof that her chickens do not reduce the value of her property or other properties in the neighborhood, he said.

In the weeks leading up to April 3, Schneider said she plans to muster the help of those neighbors who have taken her side, many of whose letters of support are included in her application packet.

"In the interim, you can bet your sweet chicken legs I'll be building a case to amend the code with the help of the Bedford Town Board," Schneider wrote on Facebook following Wednesday's meeting. "Not everyone wants chickens, but some of us do, and it's our human right to be able to produce food."

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