TUPPER LAKE - After two neighboring families and another town resident expressed concerns at a hearing Wednesday night, the planning board put off a decision on whether to grant Maurice Helm and Darcy Matthews approval to keep farm animals on their land.
Helm and Matthews already have two cows and about 15 chickens on their property on state Route 3 at the bottom of Raymo Hill. They say they didn't realize they had to get a special-use permit to do so.
But their neighbors aren't thrilled with the animals. Jamie Staves, who lives next door with her husband and children, asked the planning board not to approve the permit.
Staves said she is concerned about the animals contaminating the groundwater, that they have drawn more coyotes or coy-dogs than were in the area before, that they wake up her family in the middle of the night and that her family is bothered by the smell. She noted that Helm and Matthews don't live at the property, so they don't have to deal with things like the smell of the animals.
Matthews said the cows are downhill from the Staves' home so they shouldn't have an impact on their groundwater. The coyotes, coy-dogs, wolves, or "whatever they are," were there before the farm animals were on the property, Matthews said. And the smell is barely noticeable, coming from someone who's never been around farm animals before, she said.
Chuck and Sue Ashline also said they are concerned about the animals but only if strong limits aren't put on a potential permit. They said what's there now isn't so bad, but if five cows are allowed, as Helm applied for in his permit, that would be too many.
Staves agreed with that, saying, "We just don't want to have an abundance of farm animals living next door."
There used to be farms all over town, said board Chairman Jim Larkin.
"People felt that whatever somebody did with their land is their business," Larkin said.
But he agreed that things are different now and there should be a better understanding of what's acceptable.
Board member Jim Ellis said the zoning code was passed in 1990 because farms were being carved up and becoming residential areas.
"There is a problem with introducing animals in a built-up area," Ellis said.
Planning board members decided to hold off on making a decision. Planning board member Don Dew Jr. said he wants to see the site, and Ellis said he wants a deed review to know if the land is one or two parcels of land.
Board member Bob Collier said he didn't see any reason to hold up making a decision on the project, but Ben Peets noted that the animals are already there, so there's no hurry to give them approval, either. Matthews had asked for a speedy decision because she said they need to construct better winter shelter for the animals if they're going to be allowed to keep them.
Other farm animals
Cindy Staves also expressed concern at the hearing. She said she doesn't live in the neighborhood but wants the town to create laws that restrict farm animals.
"It scares me to think that somebody could put a cow next door to me," she said. "There's got to be rules."
Planning board Attorney Kirk Gagnier told her that if she wants restrictions put on town zoning, she should go to the town board, whose job it would be to create laws about it.
Matthews said there are farm animals on other properties in town that don't have special-use permits, but Collier told her that it's the town and village code enforcement officers' jobs to deal with that, not the planning board's.