ARCADIA — It’s not egg-actly what Ed and Jackie Snyder egg-pected.
The couple has had chickens for nearly 18 years at their rural Vienna Road home in Arcadia, but on Aug. 14, Code Enforcement Officer Chuck Verkey handed the Snyders an appearance ticket for violating a town zoning ordinance. The action was a direct result of complaints by neighbors about the chickens and an alleged rat infestation due to the chicken feed.
“We had no idea anything was going on,” Ed said. “Then we got this notice in the mail. This thing just popped up out of nowhere.”
According to a letter they received initially notifying them of the issue, the Snyders are in violation of town zoning ordinance, section 2.34 by possessing four hens and one rooster at their home, which is zoned residential. The violation states they are raising the chickens for financial gain like a farm, thereby misusing the property as it is zoned. The property and that of the neighboring farm land actively farmed by Elvi Farms that abuts the couple’s home to the north and west are zoned residential — not agricultural.
“The violation 2.34 is listed in the code enforcer's book under definitions,” Jackie said. “It is not a code, ordinance or law. The town of Arcadia does not have a law or ordinance for or against raising backyard chickens on residentially zoned property.”
The couple appeared at the May 14 Town Board meeting to argue their point, and they hoped to get clarification about what exactly the problem is since their chickens are pets kept for the eggs they produce. Verkey had already determined there was no rat infestation and the chicken feed was being stored properly. Town Attorney Dave Saracino said at the meeting that the town had received information that the Snyders were raising the chickens for meat. Saracino said based on that information the town had to cite the Snyders for misuse of property. The Snyders contend that simply isn’t true, reiterating that the chickens are nothing more than pets.
The Snyders were told they would have to plead their case before the zoning board to get a variance, and if needed, can appeal the matter in court. The couple was ordered to appear in court on Aug. 21, where they were granted an adjournment to acquire legal counsel. They must return to court on Sept. 18.
Right now the couple is down to three hens, which are being kept contained in a fenced chicken coop. Ed and Jackie want to see a specific ordinance that says they can’t have chickens. Saracino said the codes are specific about what is allowed and all else is prohibited.
Cities, including Rochester, Syracuse and Canandaigua, have laws allowing chickens in residential areas, Ed Snyder said. Canandaigua recently changed their codes to accommodate backyard chickens — and it only took them four months, the Snyders said. Supervisor Dick Colacino said the town has been looking at updating its codes for more than two years — codes that are now 32 years old.
Colacino said he would like to see the Snyders’ property and similar lands in rural areas rezoned to agricultural/residential, which would alleviate not only this problem, but future fowl issues as well.