EDITORIAL

Bangor bests the birds

Drew Lane in Bangor.
Drew Lane in Bangor. Buy Photo
Posted June 04, 2013, at 11:28 a.m.
Last modified June 04, 2013, at 12:43 p.m.

Municipalities have a long history of setting rules to encourage people to cooperate with one another in the name of public health and safety. Bangor requires pet owners to pick up after their dogs when walking them on sidewalks or in parks. The city also attempts to protect peace and quiet with its noise restrictions, which prohibit vehicles, snowmobiles and boats from generating sound at certain decibels.

Now it also prohibits residents from creating an “unsanitary condition” when they feed birds or other animals. The ordinance that the City Council passed on May 29 does not prevent people from feeding birds. It prevents people from feeding them in a manner that creates an “unclean, unsafe or unsanitary condition” or otherwise “affects the quiet enjoyment by others of any private or public property.”

The rules were needed to restore calm to Drew Lane where for years one resident has thrown enough bird feed onto his driveway and front yard to attract hundreds of birds who defecate on neighbors’ property. Imagine living in a situation where bird feces often fall on your deck where you grill food. Think of having to scrape it off your car windshield every day or week. Excessive bird feeding leads to excessive excrement that disturbs the health and welfare of adults and children.

It would be nice if the city didn’t need the ordinance. Ideally, the resident would have assented to the pleas of his neighbors who repeatedly asked him to stop feeding the birds. But neighbors said they have been dealing with the problem for seven or eight years. That’s a lot of feces. One man, who is legally blind, said he worries about what he’ll step in when he walks outside or sits on his porch.

The city used its authority appropriately. Fines for violating the ordinance start at $50 with the first offense. They then increase to $100 and $200 for subsequent offenses within a year.

Bangor is not the only municipality to run into an animal-feeding problem. Rockland approved an ordinance last year to ban people from feeding animals if it creates a public nuisance. That rule change also originated with residents’ complaints — about a woman feeding many seagulls. Millinocket faces a slightly different problem: bears. Its Town Council is considering an ordinance to cut down on the number of wild animals and fowl drawn to town.

Some people may argue that the ordinances will be difficult to enforce, but that’s not a reason to forgo action. Not all cases will be difficult to prove, and the rules themselves may deter the behavior. We hope, of course, there aren’t many occasions to use the ordinances. The bottom line is that if people are being denied the enjoyment of their property, municipalities can do something to fix the problem. Bangor did.

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