Despite their praise for the impassioned advocacy of rogue chicken keeper Alex Kithes, most city council members voted against legalizing fowl raising within city borders.
The vote was 5-2, with only Council President Ward and Councilman Marc Dubois supporting amending the city's zoning law to make the hens Kithes keeps at his home for eggs legal.
Though a few council members took issue with Kithes' attitude toward people who disagreed with him, particularly his neighbor Julie Kearns, and contradicted a few of his statements, members who voted against the amendment said they did so reluctantly.
During a long and eloquent appeal to the council naming each member's concerns, Kithes sought to debunk claims that chickens were noisy, smelly and a nuisance that would drop property values and pose a health hazard. "I hope you can see that this resolution is a creation of all of you," he said, noting the document he and Dubois worked on together to create a practical set of rules for legal chicken keeping. Those rules included a ban on roosters, sanitary rules, heavy fines ($100, $200 and $300 for first through third offenses) on violators and a sunset clause that would allow the council an easy option to repeal the amendment if they didn't like the result.
Kithes also reiterated the fact that he'd kept the chickens at his home without anyone knowing about it until he offered his neighbors eggs, mentioned by his sister Ariana during the last council meeting's public comment period. "In this case there is a clear case between what is legal and what is right," Kithes said.
But his claims proved unpersuasive, and it seemed the arguments for the measure proved too passionate for a few council members.
"I respect Alex Kithes and his parents for their passion and what they've chose to fight for," said Councilman Christopher Beauchamp. But, he said, George Kithes' comment to Kearns during the last meeting that he would begin keeping potbellied pigs on his property as well crossed the line. "I took exception to that," Beauchamp said. Most importantly, Beauchamp said, there is no way for the city to enforce the proposed rules.
Councilman Bob Moreau, a licensed exterminator, contradicted Kithes' claim that there was no chance that vermin would be attracted to chickens kept in the city. "There's always a chance that something will happen," Moreau said.
Councilman Dan Gendron said that since the people keeping chickens in the city now were breaking the law, there was no guarantee they could be trusted to follow regulations set up to allow them to do it legally.
Councilman Albert Brien, who works in real estate, said Kithes was wrong that allowing chickens in the city wouldn't affect property values, though, "In my opinion this objective is a noble cause. A very noble cause."
"I really want to commend you. I look up to you," said Councilman Roger Jalette, but, although the rules Kithes and Dubois laid out would work if followed, "You're going to have people who are not going to follow your lead who're going to ruin it for everyone," he said.
Dubois closed the discussion with encouragement for Kithes and his supporters, who filled two-thirds of the room, in light of the apparently ill-fated cause. "You make us very proud. Our future's looking wonderful if it's in the hands of our young people. No matter what happens, be proud of yourselves," he said.