By Coleen Burnett
Eatontown — There was one word that could be used to describe the June 28 Eatontown Borough Council meeting.
That’s because the so-called “chicken ordinance” passed by a 4-2 vote, with only council members Mark Reagan and Donna- Mazzella-Diedrichsen voting against the bill. For the first time, chickens would legally be allowed to be kept on resident’s properties. For a few moments, it seemed as if the long-running controversy was finally put to rest.
Then Mayor Dennis Connelly announced he would not sign the ordinance into law — he instead would exercise his veto power as mayor to essentially overturn the vote.
No one could remember an Eatontown mayor ever taking such a step — and now the future of the ordinance is very much up in the air.
The meeting started innocently enough. The ordinance faced a public hearing, and once again there were opinions that ran both pro and con. One resident who spoke in favor said that the whole thing came off as a “witch hunt.”
Former councilman Richard Robinson tried to show understanding for both sides of the controversy, which has been simmering for some 17 months. He had praise for the present chicken owners who — even if they were doing so illegally — kept their coops clean and had no problems with neighbors.
“My concern is with the knuckleheads who will open up a newspaper and say, ‘Hey, we can get chickens in Eatontown.’ Those are the irresponsible people who bring things badly on those who do the right thing,” he said.
“Just to make a sweeping change, we are setting ourselves up for border wars and crossed fences.”
Before the final vote was taken Connelly reminded those present that he can only vote if there is a tie. “I have made it very public that I am against this ordinance,” he said.
He also was afraid that there is a certain segment of the population that thinks the rules don’t apply to them.
“You can make any law — make it very strict — and people are not going to abide by it. We know that. We know people that were raising chickens all over town. They didn’t abide by the law.”
If Connelly fails to sign the bill within ten days or vetoes it outright, the ordinance would be returned to the borough clerk’s office, accompanied by a statement as to why such an action was taken. The Borough Council can override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote. If there were to be any changes in the ordinance itself, the entire process would have to start back at square one.
Councilman Anthony Talerico helped to draft the ordinance, and he told the Link that he has no particular beef with the Mayor.
“The mayor’s entitled to a veto,” he said.
But for now, Talerico, and all the other interested parties in this debate, will sit tight and wait to see what happens.
“I don’t agree with the mayor, but I respect his position,” said Talerico. “We’ll listen to what he has to say and vote accordingly.”