LINCOLN, Maine ? Chickens.
Ruth Birtz has nothing against them, but the town code enforcement supervisor since the beginning of May has had to tell about 15 people, mostly downtown residents, that they cannot keep chickens on their properties due to a town planning regulation that allows only one nonpet animal per every 2 acres of property.
“In almost 20 years of working here,” Birtz said Friday, “I have never had so many requests regarding chickens.”
A few people have also asked about the possibility of keeping goats in their yards, with the regulation again restricting them, Birtz said.
Birtz told the planning board of the requests, and members agreed they will research the matter at their next meeting to determine whether the town’s downtown-area planning code on keeping small livestock animals needs to be revised.
The code, Birtz said, allows only one animal other than a cat or dog per 2 acres in downtown or residential zones, so anyone with four chickens would need 16 acres of land. Planning board members were somewhat surprised that it is so restrictive, she said.
“We are looking at it to see if it is not just a slight bit excessive,” Birtz said.
Board Chairman Peter Phinney did not immediately return a message left at his business phone Saturday.
Birtz said she doesn’t know why so many requests about livestock have come to her, but she suspects it has to do with something plaguing most everybody: the bad economy.
She said she suspects people are attempting to live thriftier lives and keeping chickens for fresh eggs and goats for fresh milk is one way to do that.
Lincoln’s unemployment rate for April 2011 was 11.7 percent, up from 10.5 and 10.4 percent in the previous months, according to state statistics compiled by the Center for Workforce Research and Information available at the state government website, www.maine.gov. The statewide average is 7.9 percent, and the national average is 9 percent.
Rose Troulis said she wants to have fresh chickens at her home at 209 Main St. and doesn’t much like the town’s regulation.
“My parents always had chickens. It’s nice to have fresh eggs, especially with the way the economy is. Everything costs so much,” the 86-year-old Troulis said Sunday. “You would like to have a garden, too.”
Planning board members will likely examine the regulations Bangor officials enacted when they contended with a similar problem last year, Birtz said. Bangor City Council members tabled an ordinance change that would have allowed backyard chickens in any residential zone, feeling that the birds would cause noise and smell issues.