Tabernacle Township Committee considers chicken ordinance

Tabernacle Township

Tabernacle residents may be allowed chickens on their property in the near future.

At last week’s Tabernacle Township Committee meeting, a big item of discussion was on a proposed chicken ordinance that would allow residential properties to have chickens, based on a number of allowances set by the ordinance.

A few months ago, Mayor Steven V. Lee, IV went around the township asking people their opinions on having chickens and if they would like them. He said from that he realized a lot of citizens were very interested in having chickens on their property.

Lee reached out to Michael Westendorf of Rutgers University who was working on recommended guidelines for home animal agriculture in residential areas to use for the writing of the ordinance. The piece was recently published and can be found at njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/publication.asp?pid=E353.

Solicitor Peter C. Lange, Jr. said he took some things out of those guidelines as well as other surrounding municipalities that had chicken ordinances and created a draft for the members of committee to consider.

According to Lange, it generally outlines some regulations of keeping chickens, including having a permit, setting a minimum lot size, setting a maximum number of chickens per lot size and having setbacks from the house and size property lines. No roosters is one of the restrictions included.

“(This ordinance has) certain restrictions to minimize the effect on neighboring property,” Lange said.

He also added there are a number of questions that should be raised for discussion, including:

• Is there a registration fee and, if so, is it annual?

• Should the township have a prohibition of selling chicken products and byproducts, such as roadside eggs?

• How should the committee be involved, if at all?

• Should there be a maximum number of chickens allowed?

• How should they deal with chicken activity that may be adjacent to designated farmland?

Members of the committee expressed that the Zoning Board should look at the ordinance to see it complies with zoning. Committeeman Joseph W. Barton expressed he did not want the allowance of roadside sales.

“I would like to see it restricted to personal use,” Barton said.

Committee members said they would consider public comment that night, get input from the Zoning Board, and have a potential first reading for their September meeting.

All members of the public present at the meeting expressed their happiness that the board was looking into a chicken ordinance.

In other news:

• Another topic of discussion at the meeting was for the contract between Tabernacle Township and Tabernacle Rescue Squad, Inc. Residents Steward and Fran Brooks said the contract doesn’t ask for accounting of the financial numbers and data, and they would like to see transparency for the benefit of taxpayers.

“We’re just asking for some accountability and some transparency here, and it does not exist in this contract,” Fran said.

They were also a part of a group that submitted five pages of criticisms, comments and questions to the board on the contract.

Stephen Cramer of the TRS said “thank you” to the committee for the time it put into putting together the contract. Cramer feels the contract is good for the TRS, but even better for the residents.

“We’ve slowly worked (on this) so taxpayers saw less and less involvement of their money to provide the service … we gave money back this year,” Cramer said.

Lee said there is more work to do before the contract is approved.

The contract is available to see at town hall.

• The next Tabernacle Township Committee meeting is scheduled for Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m.