Carroll Valley approves coop; Looks for police officers

Carroll Valley Borough Council approved an exception for a couple seeking to protect their chicken coop in the front of their house after several months of discussion, a proposed ordinance amendment, and one final impassioned plea from the coop owner. The motion for the exemption was granted, with only Council President Richard Mathews voting “no.”

“Our deeds say we can’t have chickens, and I don’t think we should give an exemption for anything contrary to our deeds,” Mathews later said. He added that he is also against any ordinance supporting the inclusion of chicken coops on borough property for the same reason. He said acting against deed restrictions might increase the chances of a civil suit between neighbors in the future.

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Adam and Katlyn Colson asked the borough council in July for permission to keep the chicken coop they built in the front of their house because there is no room in the backyard as the ordinance dictates. Colson said she spoke with neighbors to ensure they were okay with the coop, designed to match their house and garage. It is fenced and located behind a garden.

“We made a mistake when we built a chicken coop in our front yard and didn’t get a permit, and for this, I am sorry,” she told the council.

Gayle Marthers, assistant borough manager, pointed out that the permit has not yet been issued for the chicken coop, and the “chickens are living peacefully unaware that they are unpermitted.”

Council member Bruce Carr asked for a motion to allow the couple to keep their chicken coop by granting them an exception.

Council member John Schubring asked for clarification from the borough solicitor Zach Rice, saying, “I think a lot of us would have loved to have given an exemption for this several months ago.”

Rice said an exception could be permitted without amending the ordinance but could result in other requests for exceptions.

Planning chair Michael Wight said the committee is looking at adding chicken coops to the ordinance for accessory structures, and those guidelines have been eased, but “there are going to be situations like this one that may require an exception, and hopefully, it doesn’t open up a can of worms.”

Borough seeks officers

Police Chief Clifford Weikert asked the council to approve up to a $20,000 sign-on bonus to attract police officer applicants who meet experience requirements.

Council President Mathews said Carroll Valley once had four police officers, which is necessary to provide 24-hour coverage. Currently, there are only two full-time officers. He suggested the bonus should be paid in installments to ensure the retention of the officer.

Weikert told the council that other police forces in Maryland and Pennsylvania are offering similar bonuses and that he hopes the bonus will increase the number of applicants they receive. The borough is seeking part-time police candidates to fill in where needed as they try to increase their police resources.

In addition, the police chief would like the council to approve a plan to send a candidate to the police academy, which has been showing some success in other Pennsylvania police departments.

Matthews suggested that Carroll Valley should be looking at hiring two additional officers to build up the force. Weikert said they would love to have four instead of two police officers.

Although the proposed 2024 budget only covers the employment of three full-time police officers, the council paved the way for adding an additional officer or cadet student. Members also approved Weikert’s request for a sign-on and retention bonus of up to $20,000.

Mathews later said more police officers are leaving the field than signing on because of adverse publicity in the past few years. “This is not unique to Carroll Valley. It is nationwide,” he added.

Lot sales

Lot sale guidelines in Carroll Valley were approved, establishing sales guidelines, procedures, advertisement, award of contracts, rejection of bids, and exception to the sealed bid process. All lots must have an appraisal completed before the advertisement and be sold through a sealed bid process. Bids will be opened prior to the regular monthly meeting of the council, and a summary of bids will be provided to members. The award of contracts will be made at a regular or special council meeting. If two unsuccessful bid periods occur, the council can enter into a contract with whomever they choose.

The council can reject all bids if they are less than the property’s fair market value. An exception to a sealed bid process can proceed if the property is valued at $6,000 or less, as determined by a qualified real estate appraiser. A public announcement of such property must be made at a regular or special meeting at least 30 days before the sale.

Other board business

In other board business, an ordinance was approved following a public meeting to modify regulations for the placement of accessory structures and to require permits for home occupations and non-impact home-based businesses. The council also approved a resolution requesting $276,000 in grant funds to support the Carroll Commons Park improvement project.

Assistant Carroll Valley Manager Marthers said she was happy to announce that the 2024 allocation of funds from the Liquid Fuels Act is more than $236,000. The amount is based on the mileage and population of a municipality. Marthers said it would be used to improve borough roads.

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Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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