HAVERHILL — City Council is wading into the pig farm controversy.
Councilors acknowledge they don't have the power to shut down a piggery on Boxford Road or stop another one proposed at nearby Silsby Farm on Salem Street, but they aim to change that in the future.
The council is set to begin a discussion tonight about outlawing piggeries in Haverhill or at least more tightly regulating them, including where they would and wouldn't be allowed.
Councilors are taking up the issue as the Board of Health considers farmer Chris Stasinos' request for a license that would allow him to raise up to 108 pigs at the nine-acre Boxford Road pig site and another 24 breeding hogs at the 139-acre Silby Farm property.
The health board is scheduled to consider both proposals, which are opposed by neighbors, at a meeting Oct. 4.
Councilor Sven Amirian said he put the item on tonight's agenda after he was contacted by residents who oppose the Boxford Road piggery. Stasinos began raising pigs there without a license sometime in May. The health board is allowing the farmer to keep his pigs at the Boxford Road site until it makes a decision on the license, but the city has warned him not to expand the operation.
Amirian said the city needs to decide whether it wants to ban piggeries entirely or establish rules governing them. He said he will ask his colleagues to refer the matter to a committee to study the issue and make recommendations. Tonight's meeting is at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Amirian said he opposes the Boxford Road pig farm, but that he has yet to form an opinion about the Silsby Farm proposal.
Nonetheless, Amirian said it bothers him that Stasinos began raising pigs on Boxford Road without the required local approvals. He also said Stasinos has a poor "track record" raising pigs at Anvil Farm in Boxford.
"It seems to me this farmer is not playing by the rules and is getting rewarded for it," Amirian said of Stasinos. "In just about any other situation I can think of, someone caught running a business without a license or permit would be shut down. But for some reason we're not doing that in this case. That to me seems like a double-standard."
Stasinos has referred questions to his lawyer, Francis Di Luna, who has not returned phone calls.
Neighbors worry odors from the piggeries will ruin their neighborhood and hurt property values. Local farmers who attended a health board meeting last month to support Stasinos said he is a responsible farmer who treats his animals well.
Pig farm opponents have also raised environmental concerns. For instance, they have pointed out the land where the pigs are being kept on Boxford Road is near the city's Wheeler Woods Conservation Area and Chadwick Pond.
Patricia Cantor, an outside lawyer hired by the city to advise the health board in its consideration of the pig farm proposals, said communities may ban or regulate piggeries. A 1964 decision by the state Supreme Judicial Court upholding North Andover's pig farm ban is considered the precedent-setting ruling.
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