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Canton town board hears complaints about proposed zoning changes

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CANTON — Several people complained Tuesday that two proposed zoning laws regulating chickens and community gardens are too restrictive, but the Canton Town Board refused to budge.

Zoning changes outlined in two separate laws would allow property owners in the town’s residential zones to raise chickens and cockerels and operate community gardens. They would be required to obtain a special permit.

The laws also require applicants to have a minimum of 3 acres.

In particular, several at the town board meeting said they were against the acreage requirement, arguing that much less than 3 acres is needed to raise chickens and grow vegetable gardens.

“I have 2.9 acres,” said Laurie Davis, 286 Miner Street Road. “Could you make the acreage smaller? Chickens aren’t too big.”

The village of Canton, which allows chickens, does not have a minimum lot size requirement.

Maria “Flip” Filippi, an owner of Little Grasse Foodworks on Miner Street Road, charged the board was not responsive to the public. About 25 people were at the meeting.

“I’m not seeing you respond to suggestions. I don’t feel like it’s a back and forth,” she said. “I think you could step up and show you are responsive to people’s interests.”

Town Supervisor David T. Button said the state recommends a minimum of 7 acres for poultry, while neighboring Potsdam requires 10 acres.

“We think 3 acres is very generous,” Mr. Button said, noting that residents also have the option of seeking a variance from the town’s zoning board if they don’t meet requirements.

The draft laws were prepared by Canton attorney Charles B. Nash at the board’s direction.

After discussing the laws for nearly two hours, the board agreed to set two public hearings May 13 to allow public comment. The first law relates to chickens and is at 5:30 p.m. The second hearing starts at 5:45 p.m. and concerns the community-supported agriculture projects, such as community gardens.

Before the public hearings, the St. Lawrence County Planning Board will be asked to review the proposed laws. The town also is required to notify the owners of about 300 affected parcels in the town’s residential zone, including sections of county routes 27 and 32, Hale Road, Pike Road, Judson Street Road, Miner Street Road and Route 310.

Hannah S. Harvester, Buck Street, asked town councilors to explain why they disregarded citizens’ comments.

“Many people made comments about acreage. Can you tell us why you chose not to address that? It’s so disappointing,” Ms. Harvester said.

However, Edward J. Nee, 1 Woodmere Drive, said he’s opposed to making any changes to the residential zoning code.

“I don’t think the R-1 definition should be changed at all. I would love to see the board stand by its R-1 as written,” Mr. Nee said.

The board directed Mr. Nash to add a clause in the new laws stating that a special permit will not be given if the parcel in question is involved in pending litigation.

“It gives the town leverage to get the court case settled,” Mr. Nash said. “It was designed to get people to comply with the law as it exists,”

A cockerel is defined as a rooster under 1 year old. To have chickens or cockerels, applicants must have the written consent of all neighboring landowners.

Code Enforcement Officer Russell B. Lawrence IV would be responsible for obtaining those signatures.

The new laws do not cover u-pick farming, beehives or maple sugar operations because those activities are considered home occupations and are allowed in residential districts with a special use permit.

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