April 2, 2020

Withdrawal of Petition Halts Chester Poultry Regulations Controversy

CHESTER— After two postponements, the public hearing on a requested change to town regulations governing poultry has been cancelled after the petitioners, John and Bonnie Bennet, withdrew their request for a change to the regulations.

Only one day after town officials announced Thursday the planning and zoning commission public hearing was rescheduled for Feb. 4 in the auditorium at Valley Regional High School, the Bennets withdrew the proposal they had submitted last fall. A cancelllation notice for the public hearing was posted on the town’s website Friday by commission secretary Sally Murray.

The Bennets, 0f 23 Story Hill Road, were seeking to amend the regulations governing the keeping of poultry on residential property to prohibit the keeping of roosters and other noisy fowl. The keeping of hens would be allowed, but the Bennets had proposed increasing the minimum lot size and setback requirements from abutting property for properties containing chickens. Bennet, a lawyer with an office in Essex, is the long-time town attorney for Chester and a frequent moderator at town meetings.

The proposed changes generated strong opposition from residents. The public hearing was initially set for Dec. 6 at the Chester Meeting House, the planning and zoning commission’s usual meeting location. But anticipation of a large crowd led to a rescheduling of the hearing for Jan. 10 in the all-purpose room at Chester Elementary School.

The Jan. 10 session was cancelled that evening after more than 350 residents packed the room, with parked vehicles clogging the residential streets around the school off Ridge Road. The resident state trooper had determined the lack of parking and resulting clogged streets would have prevented emergency access to the meeting room.