MULLICA TOWNSHIP - Township Committee is still reviewing options regarding Nesco Road resident Jack Piper's request to keep his 12 chickens in an enclosed pen on his one-acre property, Mayor Jim Brown said.

The committee appointed a temporary zoning officer to fill in while longtime zoning officer Tom Sandman, who told Piper he needed two acres to have chickens, recuperates from a heart attack.

Brown recommended at Tuesday night's committee meeting that Piper apply for a variance, but committee members could not say how much it would cost. Staff members were not available Wednesday to provide the cost, but fees for such variances are usually in the hundreds of dollars.

Sandman had told Piper to get rid of the chickens after a neighbor complained, citing a township ordinance requiring at least two acres to keep pastured animals. Piper had argued chickens are not pastured animals and acreage requirements for keeping chickens shouldn't be the same as for keeping horses, cows and other grazers.

Piper came to last month's committee meeting asking for help in keeping the brood, and said he would get rid of the rooster if its vocalizing was the problem. Committee members told him they'd look into the situation. Brown seemed open to changing the ordinance when interviewed earlier this month.

But at Tuesday night's meeting, Brown told Piper he should apply for a variance instead.

After the meeting he said Piper is the only resident who is asking for the ordinance to be changed.

"What we're hearing so far, we don't see a need to change the ordinance," Brown said. "It's the only case in the township."

Chickens had their defenders and their opposition at the meeting.

John Adair said a neighbor of his lets chickens run loose to scratch at his driveway and lawn and leave waste all over his sidewalks. He asked that the township force the neighbor to keep them penned.

But John Hesington, of the Elwood section, defended the chickens that run loose through his yard in a different part of town.

"They are neighborhood chickens. They don't bother nobody," he said.

Edward Hagaman, head of development and housing, said after the meeting that a neighbor's loose guinea hens had created a problem for him in the past, pecking at his front door and leaving waste on his porch.

Other far more urbanized towns in New Jersey have enacted ordinances to allow residents to keep chickens in enclosed pens, even on small lots in towns such as Essex County's Millburn, Livingston, Montclair; and Hudson County's Jersey City.

Edward Toussaine, who is now the zoning officer for Winslow Township, Camden County, will be paid $21 per hour in Mullica Township's part-time zoning officer position, not to exceed 20 hours per week.

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