Chickens
First News Now Article Update © January 13, 2021.

Wellsboro, Pa. - Anna Wales and Raquel Rogers are still fighting to legalize having ducks and chickens in Wellsboro Borough, at the couple's Bodine Street location.

Two letters arrived in the mail this week for the family. The first letter brought good news, as Wales and Rogers will finally have a hearing before the zoning committee on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, for their variance application.

However, the second letter was a bit of shock to the family, as it informed them that the borough is actually fining the couple $7,000 for keeping the birds while they waited for the zoning hearing to take place. Wales and Rogers will now go before the magistrate on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

The couple continue to feel strongly that homeowners in any part of the borough, especially in rural residential areas approved for agricultural use, should also have the right to keep and maintain a small flock of no-impact poultry as pets or as food.

The bird's presence at the residence was therapeutic, entertaining, and functional. And zero harm came of keeping them on the homeowners' property.

Wales and Rogers hope to see the ordinance changed to reflect all of the practical reasons for keeping low-impact animals.

Back in July, several neighbors, as well as Wales and Rogers, had approached council and requested that the ordinance be amended to allow keeping domestic fowl in the borough. Surprisingly, Wales and Rogers had been directed to remove the birds after council president Craig West, who also lives on Bodine Street, reported the violation.

An ordinance committee was made up of West, chair Lou Prevost, John Sticklin and Joan Hart, reviewed the ordinance. The vote on the ordinance came down to a tied vote. It was noted to FNN that Prevost and West both voted in favor of getting the ordinance changed so the couple could keep their ducks and chickens. So with a 3-3 tie, Wellsboro Mayor John Wheeler had the deciding vote, in which the ordinance failed to pass.

Then at the August 10, 2020, meeting, this committee recommended the borough not revise its ordinance on this matter.

The couple did not end up removing their birds from their property as planned. Instead they decided to keep them and filed for a variance. Because of that decision to not back down, the couple is being taken to court for non compliance.

It seems odd that there were no issues with poultry at that location when the residents housed ducks and chickens from 2015 to 2018. The couple had no run-ins with the borough during that time. Sadly, the couple lost their first flocks when a predator managed to get into their lean-to and killed the birds.

The couple once again got a few ducks and chickens, they built better coops and fenced in areas to protect their ducks and chickens. This time a problem arose, when Wellsboro Borough Council President Craig West of Bodine Street suddenly decided there was an issue with the couple's pets and he addressed the violation to his fellow council members.

The couple is a bit surprised with the huge fine of $7,000 and all they wanted was the right to have a few ducks and chickens on their rural property in Wellsboro Borough.

The couple has jumped through all hoops that council laid before them. The couple had planned to move their pets in the summer, but Craig West and Lou Prevost asked the couple to rezone their area. In other words, rezone the area back to rural residential and the borough council would hold another vote. The couple said they rezoned. However, the council then failed to pass a vote allowing birds in rural residential. The couple still had their pets/birds when they filed the variance, as they continued to house their pets/birds on their property through the following months.

The couple had already paid $750 to file a variance with the zoning committee and had been waiting for a date for the variance hearing. The council then fined the couple for holding onto their pets/birds during this time. The large ridiculous $7,000 fine actually comes from the couple not getting rid of their pets (four ducks and four chickens) while they waited for the variance hearing.

Wales and Rogers are still continuing their efforts to encourage the council to make amends to the borough’s animal ordinance. In fact, the couple has even reached out to the public to get signatures with a petition on Change.org.

Also if you live in the borough of Wellsboro, and you want to voice an opinion on the matter, you can reach the zoning board via the borough office at https://www.wellsboroborough.com/index.php/contact or attend our hearing at the borough office on Crafton Street in Wellsboro on Jan. 26, at 5:00 p.m.