By JIMMY LAWTON
CANTON -- Canton planners have approved a recommendation that would allow residents to raise chickens and grow community gardens in residential zoned areas of the town.
The recommendation came after more than a year of debate and study of the issue, which came to light after planners received requests from residents to raise animals.
Interest in community gardens grew after two Canton residents started a community supported agriculture garden on Miner Street without a variance.
Planning Board Chairman Michael Morgan said the law does not specifically disallow CSA’s or community gardens, but it is generally accepted that if it isn't in the code then it isn't allowed.
"At this time there have been no penalties levied. They understand that if the law goes through they would need to go through the proper process in order to continue their operation," he said.
The proposal would require a special permit for anyone establishing a community garden or attempting to raise chickens. To obtain a permit, applicants would need to have a minimum of three acres of land, provide off street parking and have access to an on site water supply.
The permit would also be subject to site plan review, which could impose various mitigating factors to limit impact on neighbors.
Planners did not recommend allowing other livestock in the proposal.
"Our biggest concern as planners is making sure whatever you are doing isn't obtrusive to your neighbors. We talked about allowing other animals, but pigs seemed a bit obtrusive in a residential zone," he said.
The recommendation was approved a recent meeting that drew a crowd.
Morgan said two men in attendance strongly opposed the proposal while others supported it.
"We thought it was a good compromise because some people wanted everything and some people didn't want any changes," he said.
Morgan said the idea was to start small and possibly make changes down the road after monitoring the residential farms.
"We were looking to try to keep legislation as loose as we could, but also making sure we could regulate it," he said.
Morgan said the recommendation has been forwarded to the town board. He said councilors have the authority to modify the proposal, pass it as is, or disallow it.
"We wanted to get it in front of the board as soon as we could so that if they approve it, it would be in place by the next growing season."
The Canton Town Board will meet in February to discuss the changes. If they move forward, the proposal would be subject to a public hearing before becoming law.