, Derry, New Hampshire

January 24, 2013


Derry News

---- — The keeping of livestock is once again an issue in Londonderry.

Last spring, a Thornton Road resident ran afoul of town regulations when he wanted to keep a few chickens on his 1-acre property. The town’s livestock ordinance requires 2 acres, so Fritz Brown’s chickens had to go.

Then, last summer, Health Officer Richard Canuel ordered Julio Otero-Rivera to not only remove all livestock, but also to cease and desist all slaughtering, processing, cooking and selling of animals on his Beacon Street property. Otero-Rivera’s 2-acre property was large enough for the livestock, but he did not have the proper facilities for a meat-processing operation, Canuel determined. Others living in the compact residential neighborhood had complained about the odors coming from the property.

Now, a Wiley Hill Road family must find bigger quarters for their horse after zoning officials told them their property wasn’t big enough to pasture it there. Jay Barrett had sought a zoning variance to keep the horse on his 1.6-acre lot, but his request was denied as the livestock ordinance requires homeowners to have 2 acres or more of land to keep animals like horses and chickens.

These three cases suggest some confusion about the proper place of animals in Londonderry and the nature of the town itself. Bluntly, does Londonderry wish to retain some of its rural, farming nature or is destined to move full speed ahead into cookie-cutter suburbia?

A review of Londonderry’s livestock ordinances would be in order, as would public input on the matter. Running a slaughterhouse and meat processing operation in a residential neighborhood seems a bit too much. Keeping a horse on 1.6 acres doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary. And banning a few chickens from anything less than 2 acres seems extreme. A half-dozen chickens pecking around a side yard was once a common sight in New England.

While the details of such ordinances are best hashed out with public input and expert guidance, the broader issue here is the battle over Londonderry’s soul.

It’s said that houses are the last crop a farm ever grows. We’ve seen the truth of that across New England as 100-year-old farms are carved up for new subdivisions.

That changes a town’s character pretty quickly and can sharply divide its people. There are those for whom the smell of manure is akin to pollution, while for others it’s a welcome sign of spring.

Odors are often the root of the conflict when those who wish to keep livestock bump up against zoning regulations. That’s the case with the Barrett family’s horse. Apparently, some neighbors have complained about the smell, according to Zoning Board member Neil Dunn. When the size of the property does not meet regulations, board members have little choice but to order the animals out.

“I don’t want to see him lose his horse,” Canuel said. “But I have the citizens of the town to be concerned about as well.”

This is where a public discussion is useful. We urge Londonderry leaders to review the town’s livestock ordinance and see if they are serving the public well.