By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The borough council in Fair Haven is faced with a difficult and unusual decision.
On Monday night, the governing body heard from Nicole and Dawn Stover, who for the last six months have raised six ducks on their South Woodland Drive property to the chagrin of their neighbors, who have health concerns and complain that the noise from the ducks is irritating.
If the council allows the Stovers to keep the ducks, it will upset the neighbors. If it denies the family’s request, then it will have broken the heart of 12-year-old Nicole, who’s raised the ducks she’s named them Jeffrey, Delilah, Daisy, Lucifer, Blue and Genie and says they’re “pretty much like my children.”
This is a touchy subject, especially in Fair Haven, where disruptions to the status quo tend to spin the populace into a tizzy.
Before the council makes any decision, there are assessments to be made and questions to be answered, the first of which is: are ducks permitted as pets?
If the council says they are, then the ducks can stay.
The borough has a non-domestic animals ordinance that allows the council to make judgment calls, and in the past has done so in favor of animal owners, said Mayor Mike Halfacre.
“We’ve had goats before,” Councilman Jerome Koch said.
“And a llama, too,” Halfacre added.
“And a pony,” Councilman Bob Marchese said, “temporarily.”
Yet applications to allow non-domestic animals as pets remain a rarity in Fair Haven, and in this particular case, the ducks have gotten neighbors in a squawking match of their own in an otherwise quiet section of town where people get along with each other.
“We’ve lived nicely for so long. I hate this,” said Cynthia Morea, who voiced opposition to the ducks being kept as pets.
Ann Tvaroha, of nearby Rustic Terrace, said Fair Haven is not the place to be raising animals that are normally wild.
“Colts Neck is a farm community. You should live in a farm area,” she said. “You should’ve gotten a dog or a cat.”
Another Rustic Terrace resident, Eileen Best, raised concerns about duck waste going into a creek that runs through the back yard of the Stover home and others, but Halfacre said that is not the chief issue.
“I generally recall seeing ducks in water,” he said. “So I’m not too concerned with that right now.”
The main concern for the council, and what neighbors have complained about, is the quacking.
“The noise is considerable,” Best said. “It is annoying. When the ducks start quacking the dogs start quacking, and it’s not just a couple of quacks.”
At one point in her plea to the council, Nicole, who’s raised the ducks since birth, started crying when the council indicated that she may have to get rid of some or all of the ducks. She and her mother said they’ll do whatever it takes to keep the ducks from being a nuisance to neighbors.
The council, strapped with a decision to balance property rights and the good of the public, asked that the family draw up a detailed mitigation plan. A council decision is expected at the April 9 meeting.
Meantime, council members are going to hear for themselves what kind of noise is going on in the neighborhood, “so we can really ascertain the noise generated by the ducks,” Koch said. “If this is loud, destructive quacking, no one needs to have that.”