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Board Of Health Tells Chicken Outlaw "This Is Over"

President of Board of Health tells DelVecchio that the Board's decision to deny his request to revise ordinance banning backyard chickens stands.

Marlene Slavin, President of New Milford's Board of Health, informed Jeffrey DelVecchio, the self-proclaimed that the board stands by their original decision to deny his request to revise the 1968 borough ordinance banning the keeping of backyard chickens, despite the fact that no one on the board could cite the original intent of the ban. 

Slavin said that New Milford, with 16,000 residents, is too densely populated an area to keep chickens. She said that keeping chickens should require at least a one or two acre plot of land.

In informing DelVecchio of the Board's final decision, Slavin said, "This is over."

All the DelVecchio family wanted to do was to reduce their carbon footprint. They never knew they were breaking the law by having chickens in an enclosed coop in their backyard. It wasn't until they received a summons in the mail from the Board of Health that they learned it was illegal to keep hens in New Milford despite the fact that there is an ordinance permitting the keeping of homing pigeons.

In keeping with his sustainable lifestyle (solar panels, electric car, vegetable garden...) DelVecchio made the decision to raise six hens so that his family could eat freshly laid organic eggs. Jeff researched every kind of hen before choosing the six that he eventually purchased. DelVecchio constructed an enclosed chicken coop in the backyard specifically designed to keep the hens in and rodents out.

After one of DelVecchio's neighbors complained to the Board of Health, he received a letter from the board on January 5 notifying him of its decision to enforce an ordinance banning the keeping of chickens. The letter stated he had 45 days to remove the chickens from his backyard.

DelVecchio attended the March Board of Health meeting where Slavin informed him that board members had been advised they could not comment on the matter, because it was scheduled to be heard in municipal court. 

DelVecchio appealed the case in New Milford Municipal Court where the Borough prosecutor, Michael Kingman, threatened jail time if DelVecchio continued to disobey the Board of Health ordinance restricting the keeping of poultry.

Kingman issued a fine of $1000 and 15 days to remove the chickens before further fines were applied. However, when DelVecchio appeared before Judge Kevin Kelly, the fine was reduced to $539 and he was given additional time to remove the chickens, which he did.

And now, post court ruling, post removing the chickens, DelVecchio is once again before the Board of Health pleading his case to amend the 1968 ordinance. 

Although Slavin said that the board did not receive any phone calls, emails or letters in support of Delvecchio's petition, nor has any other resident come to the board requesting a review of the ordinance, she said, "We don't want to open these floodgates," by revising the ordinance to allow the keeping of chickens. 

Board member Mary McNicholas, who had abstained when the Board of Health voted on whether or not to amend the ordinance to allow the keeping of chickens, said that given the date of the ordinance, perhaps it should be reviewed. She stated that something made the banning of chickens an issue in 1968, but "is it applicable now?"

Supporting the keeping of the ordinance, Sam Yanovich, New Milford's Health Officer, raised the recent outbreak of salmonella among mail order chickens as a reason for a public health concern. 

Although the board said that they read all of the literature that he provided to them and appreciated the fact that DelVecchio was responsible with the keeping and maintenance of his backyard chickens, they said that there is no guarantee that others would be.

"The problem is settled; it's run its course," Slavin said. "The decision is to keep the ordinance as it is."

After the meeting, a visibly upset DelVecchio said, "I'm disheartened by the decision and I'm disheartened by New Milford."

Still, he's not ready to concede defeat. Not yet.   

 

Have a question or a news tip? Email the editor Ann Piccirillo at annpiccirillo@yahoo.com. Or, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your email inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Danielle June 07, 2012 at 12:56 PM
I think everyone should get a few chickens and start a and then that jack-ass prosecutor can threaten all of us with jail time (loser). These obviously uninformed members of society should really not be allowed to make decisions for the rest of us and im tired of their oppressive practices. Just a small example of what is wrong throughout the good ol' USA.
Danielle June 07, 2012 at 12:57 PM
*start a revolution
John DeSantis June 07, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Ms. Slavin is wrong it does not require an a acre or two to keep six chickens. It requires a small coup. As far as salmonella is concerned, every so often you here of an outbreak occuring in spinich, lettuce, or cantalope. Maybe we should ban produce from our grocer's shelves. They should just have left this man and his chickens alone. This town has much more serious issues to deal with.
Brooke DelVecchio June 07, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Hmmm...I know of many people who called and sent letters. Actually, the Boy Scout Troop in New Milford sent letters and asked to meet with the BOH and NEVER heard anything back from them. Just another instance where the BOH does not care about New Milford or what it's residents think. I thought we lived in a democracy, guess not. And I believe the "recent" salmonella outbreaks was quoted at 100 since 1990, I can do my own statistical analysis of that and know that is NOTHING!
miriam pickett June 07, 2012 at 02:30 PM
What a shame. Sorry to hear the news.
Arlene M. Baladi June 07, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I called the Board of Health three times on behalf of Mr. DelVecchio and his right to raise chickens. How can Slavin lie about, "no one calling, sending letters or e-mailing"? Typical politicians at work again.
Nancy June 07, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I also cannot understand the denial. If there's a law so be it otherwise whats the big deal.
Darlene June 07, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Are Board of Health officials elected or appointed? If appointed, by whom?
Denise June 07, 2012 at 03:40 PM
I agree with Danielle's posts and feel that Ms Marlene Slavin's comment to Mr DelVecchio "this is over" was rude and completely uncalled for .......
Darlene June 07, 2012 at 03:42 PM
And as to "no letters, e-mails, calls" in support of this matter (which, apparently, is a LIE), what about all the people that signed the online petition? Just what does that signify to the Board?
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 07, 2012 at 04:12 PM
The Board actually said no one other than me has ever asked to raise chickens. When questioned, they did acknowledge that they received letters, calls, and e mails in my support. The members of the BOH are appointed by the M&C. Two of their terms expire the end of this month. Perhaps it is time to change the demographic of the Board to match that of the boro?
Bobby June 07, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Another group appointed by the Mayor & Council. Do they appoint people by qualifications or by who they're friends with. It's sad to think we entrusted the M&C to make decisions on behalf of us. I agree that Slavin's remarks were out of line, but that's what happens when you give power to certain people.
Tee Smyth June 07, 2012 at 05:47 PM
What was the reason for the neighbor filing a complaint with the BOH?
RJ Sanner June 07, 2012 at 06:06 PM
This town is ridiculous. Let the man raise his food, which is healthier than any supermarket eggs out there.
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 07, 2012 at 08:20 PM
I was told the original complaint was that I had chickens. The complaint did not mention anything about odors, noise, or health concerns.
Ann Marie Harper June 07, 2012 at 09:34 PM
The city needs to leave Mr. DelVecchio alone!!! He is raising his chickens & they are not even heard by his neighbor anyway! Does this city laws go back to the stone age? Mr. DelVecchio should get a place on the board & work to change the laws! Good luck Mr. DelVecchio! I would never give up my chickens either!!! They give me eggs that I can't buy that fresh & tasty in the market!!! There is nothing like fresh chicken eggs! Go get them Mr. DelVecchio & hang in there!!!
Paul Slavin June 07, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Hi Jim, This is my Mom(Marlene Slavin) .I'll talk to you at another time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Paul Slavin See me at Fallers
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 07, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I agree about the pathetic recycling program. Why should I have to bring my #3-#7 plastics to Teaneck to have them recycled. New Milford would rather I throw them away, costing the town more money in disposal fees. Why would the town pass a law drastically limiting residential solar panel installations? New Jersey is the number 2 state in the nation when it comes to sloar and our town is restricting it. The new health inspector brought up possible rodent problems. I countered with the fact that my chicken enclosure was built to keep rodents out and there was no evidence of any rodent infiltration. There is a greater risk of rodent issues with the food scraps in my garbage that I can no longer feed the to chickens. It isn't 1968 anymore and with the exception of board member Mary McNicholas, the board seems to think there is no reason to change with the times. I have to say that through the entire meeting, Mary was the only one willing to consider changing the ordinance and also expressed that a small number of contained chickens did not present any problems.
John R. June 07, 2012 at 11:08 PM
John Rutledge How ironic the " BOH chickens are chasing Mr. DelVecchio's chickens out of town.Should be the other way around!
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 08, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Funny you said that. I brought up cities such as New York City and Nashville as examples of densely populated urban areas and was told those places aren't New Milford. This whole thing boils down to the Board taking the easy way out and having no real basis for their decision.
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 08, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I would like to say that the only way to resurrect this issue is for other residents to contact the Health Department and let them know you want the ordinance changed. Barring that, there is no wat the current board will revisit this. Of course they may just lie and say no one asked but if enough people do it, you cannot be ignored.
Arlene M. Baladi June 08, 2012 at 02:04 PM
It is 10:02am on 6/8/12 and I just called the BOH again and asked them to reconsider changing the ordinance...seems they have their answering machine on to handle the flood of calls that will come in today. I will call again today on Mr. Del Vecchio's behalf.
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 08, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I just read the article about the NM birthday celebration and one thing stands out: Dan Harmatz has been on the Board of Health for 50 years. He was president when This whole chicken thing started, yet no one on the board knows anything about why the 1968 ordinance prohibiting chickens came into being. Unless my math is wrong, he was there.
David Bednarcik June 10, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Why is it so bad for one to have Chickens in an enclosed structure?
Ron McClellan June 28, 2012 at 02:20 PM
So . . .Marlene Slavin declared "It's over" . . . .I LOVE it when some dictatorial Bureaucrat says that to me. It's only over if YOU want it to be over. If you want some help with where to go from now, you're welcome to join us on our relatively new GEORGIA CHICKENS facebook page, where the only thing we discuss is how to play hardball with Nazi-wannabe's like Marlene Slavin. Some folks don't like my way of going at it, but when public officials are unreasonable, being reasonable is a seen by them as a weakness to be exploited. Ya need to let Marlene Slavin know that not only is it NOT over, it ain't even really got fired up yet. I'm not everyones cup of tea, admittedly, but if ya want to be effective against unfriendly officials, the gloves have to come off. We'd love to discuss what you've tried, what worked and what didn't. Good luck in any case! http://www.facebook.com/groups/Georgiachickens/
Arlene M. Baladi June 28, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Please DON'T give up Mr. DelVecchio, it's not over until it's over!
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 28, 2012 at 09:25 PM
I haven't given up, although I came pretty close. I am working on something for the near future. The best thing anyone can do to help right now is to tell the Health Department you want to raise chickens. There is strength in numbers.
Ron McClellan June 28, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Actually, unless the response is truly overwhelming, that isn't likely to have much effect. Sadly, the reality is that 90% of the populations simply doesn't give a rats butt about backyard chickens one way or the other. And don't overestimate the value of "strength in numbers." That's only good if "the numbers" are strong. Lots of groups have lots of numbers . . .but don't actually have anyone doing very much. Petitions are as likely to have no effect as to actually have an effect. Rookie officials are sometimes intimidated by petitions, but veterans tend to take a less serious view of them, again, unless the numbers are really overwhelming, and are verifiable from actual voters in whatever district or boundaries they serve. You also have to be careful when it comes to publicity. Keep in mind that as often as not, we inadvertently end up "tipping our hand" to a lot of folks who aren't interested in the facts about chickens, and have no desire to be educated (same with officials on that front.) Then we go to a meeting, with maybe a dozen fellow chicken advocates . . .and find a dozen anti-chicken folks who heard about your cause, and they "don't want chickens in our city!" Guess who wins that draw most. of the time, sadly. Publicity can be beneficial, but you have to weigh it VERY carefully. Try to gauge public sentiment. If it doesn't appear to building your way, best to tone it down a notch.
Ron McClellan June 28, 2012 at 10:56 PM
We also want to be careful not to fall for "The Choirs Opinion" and delude ourselves into thinking we're a force, when we simply aren't. A classic mistake many pro-chicken advocate groups make. One thing I tell folks all the time, is these officials aren't particularly interested in "the facts" they just have to pretend they are. I'll assume you went over the benefits of keeping chickens with them already, and probably also gave convincing evidence that many of the supposed "concerns" are simply myths or half truths at best. That should work . . .but more often than not . . .simply doesn't. At this point, you simply aren't going to convince them. You have to make them. And that actually doesn't even really involve "chicken stuff." Yea I know it's counter-intuitive, but it's the reality. This IS a political issue, and as such that means it's WAY more about perception than reality. Ya need to actually scare these officials a little to get any respect. Ms. Slavin pretty clearly doesn't respect or fear you, as evidenced by flippantly declaring to you, "It's over" What you need to do, is go on the offensive, politically. Go on the offensive against Ms. Slavin. And "Chicken facts" are almost a minor issue. It's a liberty issue, actually. Some folks call that "waving the Constitution" around. Well . . .YEA. That's why it's there. Anyway, as you can tell, I'm not real big on sugar coating things. If ya can deal with that, come visit Ga Chickens. Either way, Good luck
Jeffrey DelVecchio June 28, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Ron, The reason I ask people to contact the Health Department is they told me they weren't going to change the ordinance because I was the only person to ever ask to raise chickens. They also expressed concern about having too many people wanting to raise chickens. I would think if 10-20 people wanted to do it they would have to act. That sounds like a reasonable number to me and is in line with what is going on in other communities of this size. The Board of Health ultimately makes this decision. The Board is made up of the Health Department employees and the other members are appointed by the Mayor and Council. Othar than that, the M&C say they have no influence over what the Board does. How is that for democracy?

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