MAPLEWOOD, NJ – Chickens will come to roost in some Maplewood backyard coops next spring after the Maplewood Township Committee voted 3-2 to launch a pilot program at its meeting Tuesday night.

The ordinance will allow up to 15 families selected from five neighborhoods to keep up to three hens. The pilot program will run from March 2012 to February 2013. Deputy Mayor for the Environment Fred Profeta Jr., a strong proponent of the program, said he plans to participate. Also voting in favor of the ordinance were Mayor Victor DeLuca and Vice Mayor Kathleen Leventhal.

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Residents of the Summit Avenue neighborhood who have attended previous Township Committee meetings to lobby against allowing backyard chickens voiced their opposition once again at Tuesday’s meeting. “I ask you to do the right thing and not approve this ordinance,” Tom Eagan, 546 Summit Ave., said to the Township Committee members.

DeLuca told those residents that they did not have to worry about chickens in their neighborhood because the ordinance states that chickens will not be permitted in areas where there is evidence of a rat infestation. “There are 7,000 families in Maplewood, and we’ll be lucky if we get 10” to participate in the pilot, DeLuca said.

Ryan said that while he thinks the people in favor of backyard chickens are “well-intentioned,” he still thinks the program is a “bad idea.”  He said he was swayed by the arguments of real estate agents who stressed the negative impact of chicken coops on property values.

The Township Committee did agree to continue work on criteria for evaluating the pilot program. Committeeman Marlon Brownlee noted that the 13 criteria listed in a draft resolution primarily sought feedback only from those participating in the program, rather than from township residents at large.

In addition to the final vote on the so-called “chicken ordinance,” the Township Committee introduced an ordinance that would restrict the display of real estate open house signs. Under the proposed regulations, open house signs can only be displayed during an open house, and homeowners are only allowed to post one sign on the property.  Also, only three directional signs to open houses may be placed on any corner. A public hearing on the proposed rules has been scheduled for Nov. 15.

In other action, the Township Committee:

  • Proclaimed November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. A five-year survivor of pancreatic cancer, Michael Weinstein, told the Committee, “This is an important contribution in raising awareness of this horrible disease.” October was proclaimed as Community Coalition on Race month. The CCR will present its annual report to the community on Oct. 19 at the Maplewood Library.
  • Heard a report from township Clerk Elizabeth Fritzen that 121 voter applications were received from Columbia High School students.
  • Transferred $50,000 from surplus funds for environmental cleanup at 125 Dunnell Road and various other locations.