April 7, 2020

Large Crowd Forces Postponement of Chester Hearing on Poultry Regulations

CHESTER— A large crowd and inadequate parking Thursday forced the postponement of the public hearing on a controversial petition to amend zoning regulations to prohibit the keeping of roosters and capons on residential property.

More than 300 residents, some wearing knit hats shaped like chickens, packed the all-purpose room at Chester Elementary School Thursday night to voice their opposition to a petition by local residents John and Bonnie Bennet to amend zoning regulations to prohibit roosters and capons, while adding other restrictions to the keeping of poultry on residential property. While the size of the crowd was exceeding the 324 persons capacity for the school all purpose room, it was a lack of parking for the vehicles that brought people to the school that led to the postponement and rescheduling of the public hearing.

Resident State Trooper Matt Ewing told the crowd that parking along Ridge Road, the school driveway, and other streets around the school, would block access in the event of an emergency, particularly a medical emergency that could require an ambulance. Amid grumbles from the crowd, Ewing announced the public hearing would have to be postponed and rescheduled for the Valley Regional High School auditorium in Deep River.

The Bennets, of 23 Story Hill Road, are seeking to amend the regulations to prohibit keeping of roosters and capons, but allow the continued keeping of hens. The proposed amendments would also increase the minimum lot size and setback requirements for properties with poultry, and other smaller animals such as rabbits. John Bennet, a lawyer with an office in Essex, is the longtime town attorney for Chester and a frequent moderator at town meetings. One televised new report indicated the Bennets have been bothered by noise from poultry being raised by a neighbor, William Vile of 22 Story Hill Road.

A new date for the public hearing had not been set as of Friday. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said he is checking with school officials to determine dates when the high school auditorium would be available to accommodate a large crowd.

Thursday was the second time the public hearing on the proposed changes to poultry regulations has been rescheduled. The hearing was originally set for Dec. 6 at the Chester Meeting House, the commission’s usual meeting spot. But anticipation of a large crowd led to a change to the Jan. 10 date at the elementary school.