A small collection of chickens, ducks and goats live on Lloyd Cowan's small, backyard farm in Madison. He is worried about the future of his critters in the wake of the town's new ordinance banning most livestock and poultry on lots smaller than an acre and a half. Town officials are hoping to reach a compromise with small landowners. Credit: Courtesy of Lloyd Cowan

Officials in Madison are asking residents to be patient as they hammer out details surrounding the livestock ordinance passed earlier this month.

The ordinance, approved by a simple majority at the June 11 annual town meeting attended by 65 residents, effectively bans any livestock — including horses, donkeys, cattle, oxen, goats, sheep, llamas, pigs, emus, ostrich, turkey, ducks, geese and roosters — on lots 1.5 acres or smaller.

The ordinance also limits those landowners to no more than 12 chickens and/or 12 rabbits and does not exempt or “grandfather” current holders of livestock living on small parcels. Nor does it exempt current livestock owners from the portion of the new ordinance stipulating any shed housing livestock or poultry must be 15 feet away from the property line and 100 feet away from the nearest neighbor’s existing dwelling.

With nothing grandfathered in the new ordinance, existing buildings that were permitted in Madison could now be illegal.

“People [with livestock] should continue to live as they have been living,” said Tim Curtis, Madison town manager. “If someone were to come to the town with a complaint about livestock, we would respond that we are in the process of evaluating the ordinance and ask for their patience [and] that is the same thing we would say to anyone who currently has animals and is worried.”

On Monday night the town’s five-member board of selectmen agreed by consensus to consult directly with the Maine Farm Bureau on the ordinance, before requiring residents to downsize or eliminate their flocks or herds.

“The consensus of the board of selectmen is to take a look at some of the options and recommendations to make necessary changes and alterations to the ordinance and move forward with them,” Curtis said.

What those changes and alterations are, he added, won’t be known until he meets with the Julie Ann Smith, executive director of the Maine Farm Bureau, July 9.

Smith, who attended but did not speak at Monday’s selectmen meeting, confirmed the meeting in an email Tuesday to the Bangor Daily News, adding she had nothing more to comment on until after that meeting.

There are no numbers on how many livestock or poultry owners in Madison are affected by the new ordinance.

One of those affected is Lloyd Cowan who currently raises a small flock of chickens, two ducks and three goats on his 1.5-acre lot.

On Tuesday Cowen said he and other “backyarders,” as he terms those who raise livestock on smaller parcels, are frustrated by what he sees as a broad-brush approach to in-town farm animals.

“I will say for myself and the other backyarders I have spoken to, the only acceptable option to this ordinance is to not have any ordinance at all,” Cowan said.

Cowan said he was pleased the selectmen allowed him to speak at Monday’s meeting, despite not being on the agenda, and that the board seems open to listening to their concerns.

“It does sound like those of us concerned or impacted will have a chance to speak and have input,” Cowan said.

Cowan said he is also relieved that his small flock and goat herd are safe — for now.

For his part, Curtis said he is hopeful a compromise can be reached, but he also remains realistic.

“For towns like Madison, we don’t have any zoning so that is why we rely on trying to create property maintenance ordinances that best serve everybody,” Curtis said. “It’s very hard to make everybody happy.”

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.