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East Lyme - The Zoning Commission on Thursday unanimously approved changing regulations to allow residents in certain areas of town to raise a small number of hens without a special permit.
Existing regulations require residents to seek town permitting approval to raise poultry in RU-40 zones, or districts intended for "low-density residential development" that comprise a large part of the town.
The revised rules will now allow residents in those zones to raise up to six hens - but no roosters - without seeking special town approval, as long as residents abide by certain regulations.
The updated regulations, which the commission largely crafted to follow state guidelines, specify how the hens must be raised. For example, hens must be contained in a fenced coop up to 6 feet in height and no larger than 6 feet by 8 feet on at least a 1-acre property. Among other requirements, the coop must not be in the front or side yard and must be maintained in sanitary conditions, according to the regulations.
However, residents in RU-40 zones would still need to seek permits for other conditions not covered under the new specifications.
In addition, the zoning change would relax some restrictions on residents in more rural areas - the RU-80 and RU-120 zones - who wish to raise only a few backyard chickens as opposed to run a farm operation.
Commission Chairman Marc Salerno said the commission formed a subcommittee last fall to look into the issue after several families told the commission they felt they were paying excessive permitting fees to raise just a small number of chickens.
The Poultry Subcommittee has met several times over the past year to recommend a proposal for regulations to the full commission. The commission adopted them after a continued public hearing Thursday.
The complete regulations will be available in the town's zoning code.