HOPKINTON — Three returning and two newly-elected Town Council members were sworn in Monday before the council meeting.
Frank Landolfi, who was elected for another term and newly-elected Scott Bill Hirst were also elected council President and Vice President, respectively. Both councilors were sworn in by Sen. Elaine Morgan, R-Hopkinton.
Sylvia Thompson and new member, Sharon Davis, were sworn in by Town Clerk Elizabeth Cook Martin and Barbara Capalbo chose to be sworn in by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D-Hopkinton.
The newly-seated council held a hearing on an amendment to its animal nuisance abatement ordinance, following a case involving three roosters at a home at 89 North Road. William Palmer of 83 North Road, has said the roosters’ crowing was disturbing his family as early as 4:30 a.m.
The owners of the roosters, Jeremy and Jenelle Palmer, (no relation) appeared in municipal court on Nov. 2 and were cited with three counts of violating the town’s animal noise ordinance. However, the Palmer’s neighborhood is zoned RFR-80, and both residential and farming uses, including the keeping of roosters, are permitted.
The ordinance amendment, proposed by Capalbo and former councilor Thomas Buck, added a stipulation that each complaint had to originate in a different home.
“It has nothing to do with the animal,” she said. “It has only to do with who complaints, how they complain and what the police have to do about it. So the change in the ordinance is to make it so that two people in two separate homes in separate properties have to complain, rather than a husband and wife on one property. It gives the ability for the police to say ‘two people have to say this is a problem before we will come and investigate,’ but also give them a fine.’”
“I don’t think it should have anything to do with how many people and how many residents,” she said.
The council eventually concluded that the entire ordinance should be reexamined by the zoning official.
“When it’s allowed by right, it’s implied that they’ll make noise, and I’m not really of the opinion that we need another neighbor to corroborate,” Landolfi said. “I think the whole ordinance needs to be looked at.”
The issue has struck a chord with Hopkinton residents, as evidenced by the standing room only crowd attending the hearing. Brandishing a stack of 100 noise complaints made against him, Jeremy Palmer, the owner of the rooster in question, urged residents to stand up for their right to keep farm animals, including roosters, in Hopkinton.
“We are literally the last frontier,” he said. “It’s closing in around us. Look at Richmond. You need a permit to have a rooster. The people who founded this community would laugh at this today…At what point is someone going to stand up and say ‘these are the fundamentals of our community. I’m going to stand for that.’”
Stephanie Brass, who has also been cited for crowing roosters, suggested to the council that the noise ordinance should not apply in RFR-80 zones.
“Then only way to stop people from getting ticketed and to stop phone calls from neighbors who are essentially harassing their other neighbors because of having animals they’re allowed to have, whether it’s for smell or for noise or whatever, is to make RFR-80 exempt from the nuisance ordinance,” she said.
The council will consult with the zoning official and hold another hearing to discuss the ordinance. At the next municipal court session on Dec. 4, the town will also ask the court to vacate the citations which have been issued against the Palmers and other rooster-owners.