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Canton town planners like chickens

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CANTON — Chickens, but not pigs or other farm animals, would be allowed in the town’s residential zones under a zoning change recommended Tuesday by the Planning Board.

Community gardens and community supported agriculture also would be allowed under the proposal to the Town Council.

The decision came after a lengthy meeting that drew about 40 people to the municipal building on a freezing cold night.

Many were there to support Robert J. Washo and Flip P. Filippi, who have been illegally operating a community supported agriculture garden called Little Grasse Foodworks on Miner Street Road near Taylor Park beach.

The town defines community supported agriculture as an alternative, locally based socio-economic model of agriculture and food production. It often refers to a network of individuals who sign up to support one or more farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks. Food production would include fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers or herbs.

Although the majority turned out to support the zoning changes, a resident who opposed them sparked a debate that became heated at times.

Edward J. Nee said he built his home at 1 Woodmere Drive because he didn’t want to live near agriculture. The CSA garden on Miner Street Road is near his home, and he criticized town officials for not enforcing its zoning code.

“I bought the land because it’s residential, and I want to live in a residential area,” Mr. Nee said. “I really believe you’re slapping everyone in the face who obeys zoning laws. At the same time, you’re rewarding people who blatantly violate these laws.”

Another town resident, Michael J. Furgal, 21 Woodmere Drive, said he wasn’t opposed to agriculture, but he criticized town officials for not enforcing its existing zoning code.

The proposed change would require people to obtain a special-use permit from the Planning Board before they would be allowed to establish such a garden or raise chickens. A public hearing would be required and neighbors would be notified in advance. Also, only hens and cockrels would be allowed. Roosters, geese or other fowl would not be permitted.

“We will consider each request on a case-by-case basis,” said Planning Board Chairman Michael K. Morgan.

Requirements also include a minimum of 3 acres, off-street parking for all vehicles and an on-site water supply. Retail sales can include only the produce that’s grown on the site.

Many at the meeting said the village allows chickens in its residential areas, and it only makes sense to also allow them in the town, which is less densely populated.

Richard W. Grover, a village resident who supports the revision, said expanding agricultural zones into residential areas is a national trend that’s even taking place in large cities.

Several students from St. Lawrence University attended the meeting to show their support for Mr. Washo and Ms. Filippi. College students interested in sustainability and agriculture work at the garden.

“This what young people are interested in,” said Tricia Alden, Ames Road. “Times do change. This is a healthy, productive change for our community.”

Mr. Washo responded that he applied for a special-use permit and has been upfront with town officials about the activity on his property. The process has taken longer than he expected.

“We weren’t flying in the face of the law,” Mr. Washo said. “We’ve been completely above board and we were working in good faith.”

Ms. Filippi said, “This is a way of thinking about a residential area being more diverse.”

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