After the Sandwich Planning Board informally discussed creating a bylaw to prevent the keeping of roosters on less than five acres of land, the planning director informed the board the matter would be best addressed by the town’s health board.
At its meeting on September 7, the planning board asked the planning department to research the rooster issue in town, requesting Planning Director Ralph A. Vitacco reach out to Health Director David B. Mason, who receives and investigates the bulk of the complaints.
Through their findings, Mr. Vitacco concluded the town typically receives 12 noise and smell complaints a year pertaining to roosters.
“All rooster complaints are handled by the board of health,” Mr. Vitacco said. “Maybe zoning isn’t the best place for a rooster bylaw.”
But if the board of health does not want to enact a health regulation, a general bylaw could be created, which would be written by the planning department and enforced by the board of health.
“In the past, probably in the last several years, it was suggested the board entertain prohibiting roosters on anything less than five acres but the board at that time declined to entertain it,” Mr. Mason said. “If the community comes to the board, sends letters and makes them aware of the complaints, I will deal with them as they come in to the best of my ability, but it takes time to deal with nuisance complaints.”
Currently, Mr. Mason is investigating three separate rooster complaints, many of which involve other things than just the roosters, he said. Usually, one address is associated with multiple complaints.
If the board of health were to create a health regulation, it would not need to be presented to the voters at Town Meeting, like a bylaw would, and could be passed within a month, Mr. Mason said. The regulation could state anyone owning roosters on less than five acres of land would need to remove them from their property immediately.
If the planning board drafted a bylaw, rooster ownership would be grandfathered in and homeowners would be allowed to keep their roosters until they died, but would not be able to purchase more. And residents could request a special permit for ownership.
“The board of health has a regulation with livestock already and we can deal with and develop regulations based on public health interest in a very short time compared to other types of boards that would have to go to Town Meeting,” Mr. Mason said. “But roosters haven’t been on the priority list.”