BANGOR, Maine — In a surprise move, the Bangor City Council voted Monday to table indefinitely an ordinance change that would have allowed residents in any residential zone to keep domestic chickens.
The procedural move by Councilor Cary Weston to lay the council item on the table meant that there would be no discussion or debate. As such, it was unclear Monday whether the issue would be brought up again in the future, although some residents who attended the meeting indicated that they would continue working toward an ordinance change.
Councilors Pat Blanchette and Gerry Palmer voted against tabling the issue.
The city now allows chickens in rural and agricultural zones only, but the changes would have allowed up to six chickens (females only) in any residential zone, with a number of restrictions. The proposed changes would have required interested parties to buy a permit every year for $31; they would have required chickens to be enclosed in coops at least 20 feet from an abutting property line; and they would have prohibited the slaughtering of chickens on city property. Additional restrictions addressed noise and sanitary concerns, although most agree that those elements are subjective, and the proposed ordinance changes also contained provisions for if or when problems arose.
Although there was no discussion Monday, previous concerns had been discussed over odor, noise and the potential for an increase in predatory animal activity. The ordinance change was first discussed in December after a group of residents expressed interest in keeping chickens. The idea was revisited at an infrastructure committee meeting in January, during which council members expressed support after discussing some concerns.
Several other communities across Maine and across the country have altered zoning restrictions to allow chickens as part of a larger movement in organic farming and individual sustainability.
Portland, South Portland and, most recently, Orono, have passed ordinance changes to allow backyard chickens. Proponents say the benefits include cheap meat and fresh eggs, and that chickens also help with pest control for gardens. In fact, Bangor’s proposed ordinance change was modeled after similar changes approved in other Maine communities.