QUEENSBURY -- Call it "Chicken-gate."
The town has started a zoning enforcement action against the family of David Bruno, who ran against town Supervisor Dan Stec last fall, accusing the Brunos of illegally having chickens on their Gurney Lane property.
The Brunos were given until March 19 either to seek a zoning variance or remove the fowl, an order that had Bruno's wife, former town Planning Board member Tanya Bruno, crying foul at Monday night's Town Board meeting.
Tanya Bruno questioned Stec's role in the complaint and called the situation "absolute poultry in motion."
She said her family got a letter March 2 from the town's zoning administrator, stating that they had until March 19 either to remove the birds or seek a variance.
But she said it was her belief that the chickens were legal - "grandfathered" because they were present on the property as far back as 13 years ago, when the property's zoning was "small farm." She said her husband checked at the time, and was told the chickens were legal.
Craig Brown, the town's zoning administrator, said the presence of the chickens seems to violate town zoning laws that do not allow livestock on lots smaller than 5 acres, or within 50 feet of a property line. The Brunos' property, which is across Gurney Lane from the town park, is 3 acres or so, he said.
Brown said a neighbor questioned the legality of the chickens last year, but did not want to make a complaint at that time.
"We try not to ruffle feathers unless we get an actual complaint," he said.
Brown said a formal inquiry began in recent weeks when Stec notified his office that he had gotten a recent complaint. Violations could result in fines of up to $250 per week, but he said the town typically tries to work with landowners to correct the problem.
Stec said he got an anonymous phone call in recent weeks about the situation, and he forwarded the information to Brown. He said he has done the same thing dozens of times over the years when people have raised issues about zoning or other quality-of-life issues in the town.
Bruno seemed to have a sympathetic ear Monday night in 3rd Ward Councilman John Strough, the lone Democrat on the Town Board, who is often at odds with Stec.
"That's in my ward and you've had chickens there as long as I've known ... I'm kind of curious how you've been picked out here," Strough said. "It's interesting how some people get picked on and others get favors."
Stec replied during the meeting that he "resented" the inference of political motivation, and explained how the complaint came about.
On Tuesday, he said, "Someone needs to tell the Brunos the election's over."
He said he knew of a possible violation regarding a barn on the property before last fall's general election, but didn't raise the issue at the time.
He said the Brunos are being treated like any other landowner, and pointed out the town took an Everts Avenue property owner to court in 2004 over a similar presence-of-poultry issue.
"If this was about politics I would have made an issue about the unkempt, unfinished barn that's been sitting there on their property for six years," he said of the Brunos.
Tanya Bruno said the family is working to finish the barn. She said she plans to bring information to Brown to show him the chickens do not violate the zoning code.
David Bruno ran against Stec for supervisor last year on the Conservative line, losing 3,208 to 1,908.
Since the election, both David Bruno and Tanya Bruno have attended most Town Board meetings, and questioned actions by Stec and the Town Board during the public comment portions of the meetings.
Editor's note: This story was clarified to reflect Stec's comments on what possible violations he saw on the property before last fall's election.