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North Huntingdon rejects chicken ordinance

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 12:35 p.m.

After months of heated debate between supporters and critics, North Huntingdon Township commissioners formally shot down an ordinance to regulate backyard chickens.

Commissioners voted 5 to 1 against the proposed ordinance Thursday night. The decision comes about two weeks after the township's planning commission also voted against backyard chickens.

“A majority of the constituents of my ward do not want the ordinance changed,” Richard Gray, the commissioner who made a motion to keep the current ordinance, said. “I oppose (the proposed ordinance) tonight, next week, whenever it comes up.”

As it stands, only residents with at least 10 acres can have chickens in the township.

The proposed ordinance would have allowed residents to keep up to four hens on lots that are at least 7,500 square feet. Residents with larger lots could have kept additional hens, but no more than eight.

Commissioner Lee Moffatt was absent. Commissioner Brian West cast the only vote in favor of changing the ordinance so that residents on smaller lots could have chickens.

“I have not had one resident yet that said they did not want this,” West said. “Every resident that I've talked to would like to see. I am in favor of it myself.”

Before the vote, supporters and critics spent about an hour making their final appeals to the commissioners. Both sides also presented additional petitions for their cause.

Aaron McGregor, founder of the Norwin Poultry Society, said he was disappointed with the commissioners' decision. He said he felt that the commissioners relied more on speculation regarding the care of chickens rather than educational material.

He said he spent about a year and half in discussions with the commissioners and agricultural experts regarding the ordinance. He started a petition over the past month that garnered hundreds of signatures.

“I'm numb,” he said. “I thought with 600 signatures, that would have some weight.”

Other commissioners noted they received more feedback in favor of keeping the current ordinance.

“(Residents) want to leave it the way it is and chickens deserve to be out in the country and that's the way they felt,” Commissioner David Herold said. “I have to represent the majority of my people, too.”

After the vote was announced, a woman from the audience yelled out, “Thank you for making our community a residential community, not a farm.”

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, 8626 and adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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