NORTH ANDOVER — The chickens won by a landslide last night.
After several minutes of spirited debate and attempts to amend the measure, Town Meeting voted 239-33 in favor of a bylaw that allows residents to keep as many as six hens in their backyards. Previously, only those with 3 or more acres could raise chickens.
The voters also supported a plan to borrow $4,049,027 to pay for energy-saving projects at schools and other town-owned buildings; approved borrowing $3,895,500 to pay for a new gymnasium at Kittredge School, demolishing the old police station at Osgood and Main streets and building a central office for the schools and designing a new fire station at Prescott Street and Route 125; and passed an appropriation of not quite $82 million for schools and municipal services.
Town Meeting narrowly defeated Article 10, a citizen's petition that called for defining only humans as people. The lead sponsor, Fred Hufnagle, argued that this measure is needed to counteract a U.S. Supreme Court decision that permits corporations to spend large amounts of money on candidates that favor their interests.
Hillary Stasonis, of Salem Street, who led the effort to liberalize local chicken rules, said she and her husband, Christopher Stasonis, wanted to keep chickens on their property but found out they could not do so because their 1.56-acre property was not large enough under the old rules.
Six hens, she said, make less noise than a barking dog or a weed wacker.
Daniel Klisiewicz, of 60 Pleasant St., proposed an amendment that would allow residents of two-family houses to keep chickens. Article 28, the chicken bylaw, originally only applied to single-family homes.
Klisiewicz's amendment was eventually adopted. The voters rejected two other amendments. One, offered by Dr. Frank MacMillan Jr., would have referred the question to the selectmen. The other, proposed by David Boudreau, of 165 Greene St., would have required chickens be kept on lots of at least a half acre.
Article 19, the energy-savings article, passed overwhelmingly. A similar plan was defeated at last year's Town Meeting, where the selectmen and School Committee backed the measure but the Finance Committee opposed it.
This time, all three boards supported a series of energy-saving projects that Town Manager Andrew Maylor said will pay for themselves – saving $5.8 million over 13 years, he predicted.
Thea Fournier, of 247 Main St., said she has serious concerns about the electro-magnetic radiation that will be emitted by the wireless sensors that will be installed in town-owned buildings. Maylor said that of 672 sensors expected to be installed, only 33 will be wireless. The rest will be hard-wired and not emit radiation, he said.
Article 20, which included the Kittredge School gym, construction of a central office for the schools and design for a new fire station, ultimately passed overwhelmingly but drew flak. Charles Foster, the town's building inspector before he retired, objected to building a new fire station at Prescott Street and Route 125.
"Who picked it?" he asked of that proposed site. He said a new station should be on Main Street, so it's closer to the downtown as well as the older houses.
Maylor said the Facilities Master Plan Committee determined that the Prescott Street site, already owned by the town, would be a "suitable location." Maylor noted the current central fire station, adjacent to Town Hall on Main Street, was built in 1900, when fire engines were still pulled by horses.
Former Moderator Charles Salisbury offered an amendment that would have struck the fire station design and the construction of a central office for the schools from the $3,895,500 request, leaving only $810,000 for the Kittredge School gym.
Salisbury said there should have been more public discussion about the school office and fire station proposals before Town Meeting was asked to vote on them.
School Committee Chairwoman Laurie Burzlaff spoke against the amendment, saying, "We've already spent money on the design (for a new central office for the schools)." The amendment was defeated and the voters then acted on Article 20, which required a two-thirds majority because it called for borrowing.
When Moderator Mark DiSalvo declared that the article passed on a voice vote, applause erupted from the audience in the North Andover High School auditorium.