Mare Dianora’s request to have three chickens on her 13,000-square-foot property on Grand Street in Sag Harbor should be legal, according to members of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees.
However, because Sag Harbor Building Inspector Tim Platt has ruled the law requires a half-acre of property to have chickens legally under the village code, the board is left with no choice but to ask Platt to have his interpretation of that law reviewed by the zoning board of appeals before Dianora can move forward with her application before the planning board.
On Tuesday morning, during the village board’s end of fiscal year meeting, they debated a decision levied last week by Platt that stated Dianora’s application for three chickens did not meet village law.
Last year, Dianora worked hand-in-hand with the village board to legalize the keeping of chickens in the hopes of hosting her own small brood for eggs, fertilizer and to give her three-year-old son, Finny, the opportunity to help her raise poultry as has historically been done across the East End.
In July of 2011, the village board adopted a local law to allow residents to do just that, with safeguards in place to prevent neighboring residents from being bothered by the allowance. These included making roosters illegal in an effort to ensure peaceful mornings in Sag Harbor, save for the sounds of summer traffic.
According to the final law, “the number of chickens and bantams shall not exceed six per 20,000 square-feet of lot area and in no event more than 18 on any parcel.” The law also prohibits the sale of poultry or eggs by residents who have legalized their chickens through a permit granted by the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board. Coops or any structures used to house the animals are limited to 100 square-feet or 10 feet in height and must be kept in the rear yard. A coop must also meet a 20-foot setback to the property line and any outdoor pen must meet the standard for an accessory structure, keeping a distance of 10-feet from a property line.
On Tuesday, trustee Robby Stein contested Platt’s ruling, noting the village board had specifically talked about the fact that if they limited chickens to those with a half-acre of property few in Sag Harbor would be able to host them.
“I know we had that discussion, so wherever this is coming from is ignoring that discussion,” said Stein. He added that if a half-acre was required, just a dozen Sag Harbor residents would even be able to keep chickens, which was not the intent of the law.
“I don’t want to hen peck this to death,” said deputy mayor Tim Culver, agreeing with Stein.
“What is not fair is this lady has worked very hard to do the right thing here,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride.
Stein added that the village board included specific language about setback requirements and that aspect of the law, not the total square footage of a property, is what ultimately protects neighboring property owners. Dianora met all those requirements in her application.
“The problem is if we think Tim is wrong only the zoning board can change it,” said Culver, adding Platt was just trying to do his job in interpreting the code. “We can’t ask him to change his mind. Or we can amend the statute.”
“I think this is an issue of interpretation,” said Stein. “For her to have to go through another two months [while they amend village law] is unfair.”
“This is not meant to take [Platt] to task, but in interpreting that law there are a wide range of interpretations that could be made, including if she is only asking for three chickens she has the property to do it,” said Mayor Gilbride.
Culver, the liaison to the building department, said Platt could send a letter to the zoning board asking for their opinion on the law and said he would reach out to Platt asking him to do just that.
The next Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 19 at 6:30 p.m.