2018-03-09 / Front Page

Resident: Raise farm animals in city

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer


Jean Geslin and newborn son Luka in their backyard on Highland Avenue, within sight of the new public works complex. He has put in a request to allow the keeping of larger farm animals, like goats and sheep on residential lots of at least one acre. (Duke Harrington) Jean Geslin and newborn son Luka in their backyard on Highland Avenue, within sight of the new public works complex. He has put in a request to allow the keeping of larger farm animals, like goats and sheep on residential lots of at least one acre. (Duke Harrington) SOUTH PORTLAND — It was several years ago when a young girl kicked the coop, so to speak, raising a ruckus when suggesting South Portland allow residents to keep chickens.

That question did not rise to quite the level of tar sands or short-term rentals, or even dogs on the beach, in terms of splitting the city, but it was “still pretty divisive,” according to City Councilor Maxine Beecher, who was in office at the time.

Since then, Beecher said she has “not heard a single complaint” about the rules that were developed – up to six chickens allowed, no roosters. However, she expects some “significant pushback,” from a new animal husbandry proposal recently put on the table.

Highland Avenue resident Jean Geslin said he and his wife, Lucy Sommo, bought their home, located within sight of the city’s new public works complex, in hopes their children might grow up to enjoy the same experience with farm animals that he had as a boy on a dairy farm in France. Summo, from Appleton, is also used to a rural lifestyle. The couple chose South Portland, they said, because it is central to their jobs, is close enough to every urban amenity they could want, but still has some wooded areas and a small-town feel.

They knew when buying their home in November 2015 that it was not zoned for farm animals, Geslin said, but hoped to secure a zoning amendment at some point. Now that their first child, Luka, is 2 months old, the time has come, in hopes of being able to keep “a few goats and maybe one or two sheep” on their 1.3 acre lot.

“It’s not going to be a farm, or for commercial purposes,” Geslin said. “It’s just for fun, and to maybe keep from having to mow the lawn.”

Geslin said his proposal is essentially a “cut and paste” of the chicken ordinance, with similar requirements for fencing and noise. He’s also put in a minimum 1-acre lot size limit to qualify.

“It would really only apply to a few people,” he said, saying that, in fairness to neighbors, he thought a fair bit of land should be required to keep larger animals, like goats.

Initially, Geslin hoped to make his proposal apply to all residential zones. However, after consulting with City Attorney Sally Daggett, City Manager Scott Morelli said in a March 2 email that Geslin can only request a change for his own Residential A zone.

“I had wanted to do this for everyone,” Geslin said, “It doesn’t makes sense that I could have goats here but across the street it would not be allowed, because that’s Residential AA.

“The city’s comprehensive plan says South Portland should be a leader in urban farming and agriculture. I think having animals is really more and more what people want right now,” Geslin said.

However, Beecher said she suspects many residents will not appreciate Geslin’s concern.

“I think a lot of people will be concerned about the smell, more than anything else,” she said. “Quite honestly, that can be quite unpleasant on a hot summer’s day. Right now, unless I hear something that really convinces me, I’m not sure I can support this,”

Geslin’s proposal is due to be heard at a city council workshop on April 10. If the council gives a green light, it would then go to the planning board for a public hearing and then return to the council for a formal vote.

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