November 26, 2014
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Councilwoman says owning chickens is ‘egg-cellent’

Those interested in owning chickens may get their wish, as Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson plans to introduce legislation allowing people to have chickens on their property as long as they live on at least five acres.

Vella-Wilkinson, who heads the Council Economic Development Committee, is also in the process of fine-tuning the language of an ordinance that would amend criteria for city purchasing.

While the chicken ordinance won’t be addressed until after the budget hearing in the spring, and the purchasing legislation will be addressed at the Feb. 22 meeting, Monday’s meeting at City Hall will find Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis withdrawing her ordinance to reinstate beach fees at Oakland Beach, Buttonwoods and Conimicut, as well as Ward 4 Councilman Joe Solomon introducing two pieces of legislation, the first of which would request a six-month expenditure report by all departments, and another relative to the disposal of surplus and used city assets.

The chicken ordinance will propose that conforming lots can obtain up to six hens, and owners of nonconforming lots can have up to four hens. Roosters will not be permitted.

Vella-Wilkinson said the idea is far from foul, as people will be able to have fresh eggs.

“If you have a rooster, you have more difficulty controlling the population,” she said. “You can still have eggs but we’re not going to have a rooster crowing. People who don’t want chickens don’t want to have chickens in their yards.”

The ordinance will require chickens be penned and live in a coop to keep them safe at night. It also identifies how many feet from the property line the chickens must be. However, the ordinance is not yet fully drafted.

“A lot of communities that are moving towards sustainable living are allowing chicken-raising within city limits,” Vella-Wilkinson said. “Things are getting more expensive and eggs are a good source of protein. The chickens are clean so you’re not going to have a problem with hormones.”

Vella-Wilkinson raised chickens for more than three years when she was in the Navy living in Charlestown, S.C. At the time, her son, Ian, was young and one of the sailors said it was time he had some “critters to take care of.”

“He brought me a shoebox with chicks in it,” she said. “A chief also brought me Rhode Island Reds. The only reason my neighbors knew that I had chickens was because I was giving away so many eggs. They were thrilled. There are a lot of people from the city calling me saying they are very interested about having the chickens.”

Vella-Wilkinson is also in the process of fine-tuning the ordinance that would amend criteria for city purchasing. In the future, she hopes the city will more often consider approving bids made by local businesses, as she feels it could be an effective means of economic development.

According to Vella-Wilkinson, 33.6 percent of revenue from national chains is reinvested back into the local community in which they are located, as opposed to a 64.8 percent return

from local business, which help to support schools, civic services and community improvements.

However, she is still researching the issue and has sought input from local business owners to hear how it would benefit or harm their companies. As a result, she decided to hold the legislation until the Feb. 22 meeting, possibly later.

“In the New England area, if you have a ‘Buy Local’ ordinance where first priority goes to your local venders, you could potentially limit the local businesses in the municipality when it comes to their ability to bid out in municipalities in Massachusetts and Connecticut because there’s no reciprocal agreement,” she said. “My intent is to help local businesses and not hurt them in the long run.”

While the committee is yet to discuss the legislation, Vella-Wilkinson said she’s always looking at ways to assist small businesses.

“I want to help the business communities in the city that have been hit hard by the economy, property taxes and car taxes,” she said. “We want to keep our businesses local. I hate seeing empty storefronts.”

Further, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis has decided to withdraw her ordinance to reinstate beach fees at Oakland Beach, Buttonwoods and Conimicut after meeting with Mayor Scott Avedisian and members of his administration last week.

Despite the fact that she isn’t thrilled with the amount of littering that occurs at Oakland Beach, Travis said she plans to withdraw it from the docket during Monday’s meeting because it would be too pricey for the city.

In 2007, Avedisian recommended revoking beach fees, as departments learned that revenues were about half the cost of running the seasonal program and cost $12,000 annually.

Now, to Travis’ delight, Avedisian, along with his chief of staff, Mark Carruolo, and Public Works Director Dave Picozzi, is looking to alternative ways to keep beaches clean.

“I was really trying to get the administration to take notice. That was my big point,” Travis said Tuesday. “They’ve got to do something. We don’t need any more added line items in the budget but I know people who are not happy with the garbage problems we are having so we want to try to address it in different ways.”

Unlike Buttonwoods and Conimicut, Travis said, Oakland Beach is the only beach with a dining setting. She has seen trash, as well as discarded diapers, in the parking lots and scattered on the beach.

Travis is a member of the Oakland Beach Association, which performs biannual beach cleanups. They also provide maintenance to public property within their ward when needed.

“We want people to be able to come to the beach, but we also want them to pick up,” said Travis.

In an attempt to remedy the issue, Avedisian said the city will have four temporary jobs available to high school and college students to tidy up the beaches a few hours each morning before visitors arrive at the beach beginning on Memorial Day. Wages are yet to be determined.

“We’re looking at it from a different perspective and figuring out we can control the litter better,” Avedisian said. “As it gets closer to summer, we will advertise for the positions.”

Also, Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon is set to introduce two pieces of legislation, the first of which would request a six-month expenditure report by all department or acting department directors. He said he feels it’s necessary so the council can get an idea for upcoming budget cuts.

“We want to see what has been overspent, under-spent and what is right on the mark right now,” Solomon said. “Then, we can present these items when it’s time to make the cuts.”

He also has an ordinance relative to the disposal of surplus and used city assets. These items, Solomon said, most likely have scrap value.

“Sometimes scrap value is more than the value of the item being sold,” he said. “The reason this came to light was because we recently sold off some vehicles that were aluminum and the money we got for these vehicles would have generated more in scrap aluminum value than they did in vehicle value. We want to give the taxpayer the optimal return value on the disposal of certain items.”


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