EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 10, 2013

'The Palace,' a chicken coop, gets ZBA OK

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — Brace yourself, “The Palace” is coming to Salem.

The town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously Tuesday to allow for the building’s construction on Shannon Road.

But don’t expect to see a glitzy, multi-level marble structure popping up any time soon, The Palace is a 6-by-12-foot chicken coop.

Yes, a chicken coop.

The zoning board often finds itself granting variances for homes and businesses around town. It’s just not often that the board is asked to give its blessing to a chicken coop.

“We don’t get a lot of issues involving animals,” town planning director Ross Moldoff said.

But communities throughout the region are seeing an increase in people raising chickens, according to the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture. Every spring, area grain stores, such as Derry Feed and Supply, offer baby chicks for sale.

It’s happening across the state line as well, where residents of North Andover will consider a bylaw to allow chickens when they vote May 21 at their annual Town Meeting. And it’s not just small towns.

“Urban chickens are becoming more popular,” attorney Marie Sapienza said.

Sapienza represents Salem resident Debra Casement, who said she was delighted to receive approval to raise six laying hens on her 1.9-acre lot at 57 Shannon Road. She’s still deciding on the breed, but chose The Palace from chicken coop designs offered online.

“We’re very excited,” she said.

Casement needed the board’s permission because even though her property is in the town’s rural district, a minimum of 5 acres is required for any agricultural activity, Moldoff said.

In a town of 28,000 residents and dozens of businesses, there’s not a lot of room for any type of agricultural activity.

“A lot of the rural district is pretty much developed,” Moldoff said.

He said it’s the first chicken-related request of at least three or four that’s been approved by the town in the last several years.

Casement said she and her husband, Brad, have always been interested in producing their own food. They already have a garden, so Casement said her husband joked they should get chickens as well.

Casement, whose family raised chickens when she was young, said she “finally gave in.”

But the decision to raise a half-dozen chickens ended up being a much more of a process than she imagined.

She found herself hiring an attorney, researching town zoning laws, and dealing with tax maps and abutters’ notices. None of the six abutters have opposed the plan. The closest neighbor lives about 150 feet away, Sapienza said.

The terms of approval include having no more than six chickens — and no roosters, whose crowing could disturb neighbors.

That’s fine with Casement.

“We don’t have any desire for roosters,” she said. “A lot of municipalities don’t allow roosters.”