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Ossining Chickens and Bees Talk Goes to Committee

OSSINING, N.Y. – It’s going to be awhile before the village of Ossining makes a decision on allowing residents to raise chickens or become beekeepers.

The Village Board of Trustees agreed Tuesday night during a work session to send the discussion to a subcommittee. Tuesday’s work session also included discussion on various safety and health concerns in allowing residents to keep chickens and bees in their homes. But along with those concerns, board members made several statements that they are open to the possibility of passing legislation.

Chappaqua resident Anita Scheller, who owns 17 chickens in a small habitat, said she thinks Ossining would see a great benefit to allowing residents to own chickens.

“It’s one of the few low-maintenance domestic animals that needs very little space,” she said. “They produce eggs, which are delicious. We’ve had chickens on our land for 62 years and everyone in our family has loved having the chickens and those fresh eggs.”

Trustee Marlene Cheatham asked that residents have patience while village officials look into considering adding legislation.

“I just want to make sure everyone knows this is not going to happen in the next two weeks,” she said. “This is going to take a few months. Please rest assured this is not going to happen quickly.”

Westchester communities, including New Rochelle, recently considered passing legislation that would allow residents to raise chickens in their homes. The New Rochelle council ultimately voted against an amendment that would have allowed households to hold no more than six birds.

Currently, Ossining village code prevents residents from housing chickens or bees in their homes. Scheller said many Westchester communities have reached the stage of considering legislation, but so few have moved beyond that step.

“It never gets to the point of legislation and that’s sad,” she said. “A lot of towns think it’s a farm animal that’s going to cause trouble and attract problems. But they don’t need a lot of space and they are easy to maintain and they’re great for the whole family.”

Trustee John Codman said his biggest concern with changing the code would be enforcement.

“Enforcement is a critical issue here and it’s something that could take time away from other things,” Codman said during the meeting. “This is a balancing act we’re going to have to do to see if this is something we can afford to do. As much as we’d like to be the stewards, we have to make sure we can afford to do it.”

Scheller said she understood the concerns with enforcement, but said a permit fee could go a long way in assisting enforcement.

“I think if they did it right, they could make some revenue from the fees and be able to enforce things without losing any additional money,” Scheller said. “You’d be surprised how neighbors police other neighbors. And I think there are a lot of people in Ossining who would be happy to pay a permit fee for the opportunity to do it.”

Village Manager Richard Leins said residents would have the opportunity to voice their concerns at upcoming public meetings once the new subcommittee is formed.

“On the behalf of the administration I have to reiterate what some of the trustees have shared is that there are serious enforcement issues in this community and it’s a matter of priority,” Leins said. “It sounds like a wonderful idea but we have to make sure we have our own health and safety and welfare covered before we reach out too much.”

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