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Sunday, October 27, 2013

One resident wants to know if roosters have the right to vote

SK Town Council says no to an animal noise ordinance on for informational purposes due to complaints of Roosters in rural residential areas.
SK Town Council says no to an animal
noise ordinance on for informational
purposes due to complaints of
Roosters in rural residential
areas. (photo Tracey C. O’Neill)
South Kingstown -Neighbors should be able to work out their concerns without regulating the cock-a-doodle-do of a rooster was the message sent by the Town Council on October 15.

The meeting had members and residents up late crowing about rural Roosters in an information gathering session regarding a proposed “Rooster ordinance.”

Roosters make noise

On the agenda, due to concerns of residents living in Kingston, the subject of roosters and chickens filled council chambers and prompted more than a dozen peopleincluding Sen. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37) and Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34) to take a turn at the podium to speak on the “fowl” subject of animal noise nuisance. Sosnowski, a South County farmer, spoke in support of the rural nature of the Town and thanked residents and council for supporting local agriculture. Sosnowski and Tanzi, whose family has a small coop, spoke against further regulation of domestic fowl.

“I’m not clear what we’re even talking about,” said Stephanie Marisca asking for clarification from the council. “I think all of us here need to be educated on what we really are talking about tonight. So when you say a rooster ordinance, that means legislation for roosters. Does that mean that roosters can vote in town?”

Residents came out overwhelmingly in favor of roosters in the hen house

The issue presented before the council was predicated on the noise produced by roosters in rural areas, waking residents in the early morning hours and continuing their crowing throughout the day. Residents with and without live poultry appeared to speak on behalf of the rural nature of the Town.

Favoring a neighborly solution to rooster noise, many spoke against increased regulation of the freedoms of private property owners. Noting that the sound of a lawnmower, motorcycle, school bus, and some people’s children were louder than the roosters, residents questioned the need for an ordinance that could potentially open the door for future complaints and create a burdensome enforcement issue for town officials.

The issue is not new to the Town

Geralyn Perry, who has championed a noise nuisance ordinance and regulation of live poultry as far back as 2011, claimed she and her family were adversely effected by roosters living in her neighborhood. In July and August 2011, the Planning Board heard Perry’s concerns and determined that regulatory action was not necessary in resolving issues between neighbors.

Perry’s arguments on Tuesday evening mirrored those presented in 2011 when lobbying for regulation of domestic fowl in residential areas.

Presenting correspondence from surrounding neighbors and municipal ordinance from other Rhode Island municipalities, Perry made her case to the council. Perry told council members that 26 communities and towns address animal nuisance noise in their environmental and noise ordinances.

“I think that we, too, are entitled to enjoy our property in peace,” she said. “I don’t want a ban on roosters, necessarily. I just want relief from the noise.”

Perry Read from correspondence sent from neighbors, Marjorie Weiss and Noel Smith of Higgins Drive, who moved to South Kingstown five years ago. The two residents were not accustomed to the sounds of rural living. Requesting relief from the noise of the roosters, their comparison had the fowl crow seemingly worse than that of metropolitan living, causing “a serious quality of life issue.”

“We are able to hear the roosters every morning and often throughout the day…While they are not directly in our back yard, they are still quite annoying and noisy,” they wrote. “[We] are from New York City and used to sirens and loud street noises, but having a rooster barking like that all every day, all day long, especially at 3 am is totally inappropriate…”

Ruth Blecharczyk, a chicken and rooster owner, who also appeared at the 2011 meetings, spoke regarding neighborly and common courtesy solutions to living in rural communities. Blecharczyk simply brings her rooster inside during the warm weather when neighbors have their windows open.

Domestic fowl issues handled with drastic means

Perhaps the most troubling testimony of the evening came from Joan Gibbons whose rooster was shot by a neighbor who didn’t approve of its presence in the neighborhood, never contacting Gibbons to voice any concerns.

In other drastic means, Robert Shoemaker, bought a decibel meter to check the sound level of his rooster in comparison to a noise nuisance ordinance in effect in Westerly. According to Shoemaker, Westerly’s maximum allowed decibel level is 65. During the early morning hours, Westerly’s maximum is 60.

Shoemaker’s rooster per his testimony registered a 53 on the meter, with a lawnmower and motorcycle breaching Westerly’s max.

“The guy mowing the lawn next door came in at 73 dba’s,” said Shoemaker to applause. “That’s loud. With the chicken in the coop, with the rooster crowing in the coop, when he’s crowing at my property line he comes in at 52 dba’s which is well below Westerly’s 60. Soundwise, that’s how loud these roosters that are so deafening in this particular neighborhood are – they’re not really that loud.”

No action on Rooster Ordinance

After hearing more than an hour of testimony for and against a potential rooster ordinance, Council Vice President, Carol Hagen-McEntee motioned to file the issue and take no further action on regulating roosters. Hagen-McEntee further suggested that the issue was a civil matter between neighbors and could be pursued via other means.

The council voted 4-1 for no further action, with Ella Whaley casting the sole “no” vote in filing the issue, with legal counsel advising that due to the informational nature of the hearing, the vote wasn’t necessary.