North Elba, Lake Placid law would limit livestock

LAKE PLACID — This village’s Board of Trustees and the North Elba Town Council are proposing a local law amendment to prevent people from keeping chickens or other farm animals if they do not reside in the planning district known as “Rural Countryside.”

Village and town residents will be able to voice their opinions at a yet-to-be-announced public hearing tentatively scheduled for mid June.

The proposal was one of 13 amendments to local laws discussed at Thursday’s special joint meeting between the town and village at the North Elba Town Hall.

Rural Countryside is one of eight planning districts outlined in the town and village’s 2011 joint land use code. The district includes sparsely populated areas where property owners have at least 5 acres of land.

“It’s the area where people are far enough from their neighbors, generally, to have a lesser impact of this type of activity,” said Tim Smith, the attorney for the town and village’s Joint Review Board. “But it’s a judgment call.”

Rural Countryside districts include the neighborhood of Averyville Lane southwest of Birch Hill, the majority of Bear Cub Lane (not near Old Military Road), the northeast portion of Mount Whitney Road and almost all of the town of North Elba east of the intersection of Cascade and Old Military roads, beside the ski jumps and horse show grounds. Some portions of Ray Brook south of state Route 86 near Ray Brook Road are also classified as Rural Countryside.

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said he recommended the amendment after he received complaints from residents disturbed by the noise of roosters at nearby homes. He added that farm animals have been a nuisance to some village residents in the past.

The amendment would be grandfathered, meaning anyone in the village or town who currently has livestock and doesn’t live in a Rural Countryside district would be permitted to keep their animals until they no longer have farm animals on their property or until they sell the property.

“We just thought maybe this would be the best way to resolve this issue going forward,” said Politi, who owns a real estate firm, “because we can’t change anything, people who have them now.”

Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall raised the question of whether people outside the Rural Countryside districts could keep agricultural animals as pets, such as pigs. Smith said language carving out household pets could, theoretically, be added.

Village Trustee Jason Leon, a teacher at Lake Placid Elementary School, said he’s noticed the raising of chickens and other farm animals is a trend in the region. His school, located within the Old Military Road Corridor district, installed its own chicken coop last summer.

“It seems sort of self-sufficient — chickens or whatnot,” he said. “Is this going to be a decision we make as a board that’s going to box out somebody’s ability to do that?”

“I think we are going to box out somebody’s ability to do it in areas that I don’t know that we think are appropriate,” Politi replied. “I think that that’s our responsibility to the public.

“Do you want chickens and roosters and everything on the Ruisseaumont (Way) and Peninsula (Way) and Whiteface Inn (Lane) and areas where people have maybe expensive homes (and) live right on top of each other?” Politi continued. “I don’t have anything against chickens. It’s just that I don’t want somebody next door to me — it’s never a problem until it’s next door to you.”

Town Councilman Jay Rand echoed Politi and said he had a negative experience growing up next to a home with chickens.

“Believe me, it’s not a great experience,” Rand said.

Town Councilman Derek Doty said the same issue has been a hot topic in Bloomingdale, which doesn’t have a land-use code.

Chickens have been worked into land-use codes in places such as Saranac Lake, where village homeowners are permitted to keep up to six chickens — but no roosters — per 5,000 square feet, or 30 for any lot size.

Randall said he felt the proposal clarifies a distinction “that probably should be.” The mayor added that he “has faith in those who define districts for the township.”

Several trustees and councilman spoke of locations not within Rural Countryside where they know chicken coops exist, such as at Otter Landing near Mill Pond Road, the Spruce Street neighborhood and behind Family Dollar near Saranac Ave.

“There may be more out there than we know of,” village Trustee Scott Monroe said.

“The zoning inherently restricts people; that’s what it does,” Smith replied. “I think you’ve got to consider the greatest good for the greatest number (of people) — whatever that is, in your opinion.”