Backyard Chicken Zoning Amendment Fails 2-4

Woonsocket City Council members praised Alex Kithes's effort to champion legalized chicken keeping.


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. 

Alex Kithes May 06, 2013 at 03:25 PM
There is no more that needs to be said. If this were Facebook, I would "Like" and "Share" this repeatedly.
Alex Kithes May 07, 2013 at 02:16 AM
@Steve: I will be continuing our conversation from "Every Day is Earth Day" here, because it got to be a little inappropriate for the topic of that article. First of all, as is frequently the case, you didn't actually respond to any of my arguments. Instead, you merely began a new discussion thread about something only related in theme. And your comments are getting a little nonsensical, even for you. 1) My account was named as such because I was following the pattern on the Patch at the time, but has been updated. Your turn. 2) You stated, "I am a 'Real' property owner and tax payer in the city of Woonsocket. I would never post anything otherwise" - so you believe in the silencing of people who do not own property in the city, as I originally noted long ago. That is a disgusting belief, and should not be tolerated in the 21st century America. Furthermore, as I have stated ad nauseum in the past few weeks, I do pay property taxes, as my family does own property. That you are unable to remember this simple piece of information has repeatedly held our discussion back, to an extent that I am no longer willing to tolerate.
Alex Kithes May 07, 2013 at 02:18 AM
@Steve, continued 3) I have stated multiple times, in public conversations, that there is no qualitative difference between chickens and any legal pet, with the exception of food production. It is not up to you or anyone else to decide that the line, dividing what is and is not appropriate for the city, should be drawn at "chickens", and then impose that arbitrary and often misinformed view on property-owning, taxpaying citizens, who wish to raise animals in order to produce their own food. I would really appreciate if my statements were no longer taken out of context (by you and certain council members), because I have to admit, it's getting a little old: I have never stated that anyone, from you to my intrusive neighbor, is not allowed their opinion. But when that opinion is not actually borne out by the facts, and yet its adoption heavily infringes on my God-given and Constitutionally-protected property rights, then yes, I am of the belief that it should not be considered of the same value as an opinion of someone who actually knows what they're talking about.
Alex Kithes May 07, 2013 at 02:21 AM
@Steve, con 4) Again, you are showing how little you actually paid attention to this fight when it was going on. Much of my own motivation (as I have made exhaustively clear) is the alleviation of abusive factory farming and a more sustainable agriculture that does not deplete fossil topsoil, fossil water, and of course, fossil fuel. My family shops at Wright's Dairy Farm, and a few other local businesses, at least weekly. I have gone there since I was very young, and I think that they are a perfect example of what our society should strive for, in that they are a locally owned business and that they treat their animals well. That being said, we cannot not rely solely on small, local farms to supply all of our needs, because, given the minimal demand with which our society has furnished them in the recent decades, there are not actually enough of them to supply everything to all of us. It is my belief, and I have a strong feeling that Wright's and all of the other locally-owned and operated farms and other small businesses would agree, that we all must produce some of our own food and other consumables, and buy everything that we cannot produce (milk, for example) from businesses in our community. That you would question my support of local businesses greatly offends me, and can't possibly be based in any fact but that I am a proponent of backyard chicken raising, a belief that (in my view) is much more in tune with support of local agriculture than your staunch opposition.
Alex Kithes May 07, 2013 at 02:22 AM
5) Finally, the maker of the video you gave me would support raising backyard chickens if the alternative was to buy one's eggs at the supermarket; I could furthermore furnish you with a veritable book of explanations as to why the form of agriculture directly suggested by that video (not involving animals at all) is not only unsustainable, but detrimental to our Earth's ecosystems. But I won't, because that would be a waste of my time. I am fully aware of everything wrong with our agriculture, which is why I am such a proponent of people raising their own vegetable gardens and chickens if they have the minute amount of space required to do so. Given your indicated concern for animal welfare and agriculture, I would expect you to agree.


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