Hearing on backyard poultry is no place for game of chicken
by Don McKee
Columnist
January 25, 2013 12:00 AM | 1433 views | 9 9 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
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Backyard chickens are not what you might expect to be the hot-button issue of the day in Cobb County.

Who would have thought that a public hearing on keeping chickens on residential property under two acres would have degenerated into a citizen speaker being hauled from the lectern in handcuffs? It happened to Banks Wise, 25, of Mableton because he didn’t give his name as requested several times by Commission Chairman Tim Lee and kept talking. It was a game of chicken. Lee won.

Lee said Wise “was not following the rules of the commission” in not identifying himself. Lee also said forcible removal of speakers who ignore requests to give their names is all up to the police officers standing at the ready during the commission meetings. It was their judgment call, Lee said, and he supported their decision.

So the commission has a rule that speakers must identify themselves. That is a reasonable rule, it seems to me. Why is it even an issue? Identification is part of the context that is important in such a situation — not only a name but at least a general statement of where the person lives in Cobb. At various public hearings and commission meetings in the past, speakers have routinely identified themselves by name and residential area.

Yet shouldn’t more discretion be used in dealing with an uncooperative speaker who is not unruly or threatening or violent? It is hardly appropriate for the chairman to leave the decision about removing a speaker up to the police. Shouldn’t there be clear warning to the speaker that if he does not give his name or sit down, the officers will remove him? Further, in such a setting when the speaker is not violent, resisting or even talking loudly, why shouldn’t he first be asked by the officers to sit down before any action is taken? And please, no handcuffs.

As for the proposal to allow chickens on residential lots of less than two acres, put me down as unenthusiastic about the idea. As another speaker, Ron Sifen, pointed out, people who bought homes in neighborhoods with zoning laws don’t expect them to be changed to accommodate chicken owners.

Incidentally, even if the Cobb commissioners approve the proposed ordinance change, getting a special land use permit for poultry will not be easy or cheap. The requirements, per the website of the Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County — which is pushing for the right to have chickens on less than two-acre lots — include a non-refundable $1,000 application fee, a $300 refundable deposit for county signs to be posted on the property, $9 per sign, non-refundable, and “a current plot plan and boundary survey stamped by a registered engineer, architect, land planner or land surveyor.” That will be another big expense. The applicant also has to send a first class letter notifying all property owners within a 1,000-foot radius about the rezoning application.

It’s a lot more than chicken feed.

dmckee9613@aol.com

Comments
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David Staples
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February 01, 2013
"As another speaker, Ron Sifen, pointed out, people who bought homes in neighborhoods with zoning laws don’t expect them to be changed to accommodate chicken owners."

What about people who bought homes in neighborhoods before the anti-chicken ordinance was passed? Should we never change any county ordinances ever again? As one of the few legal chicken owners in the county, I can attest that my chickens are quieter than some of my neighbors dogs, whom I can hear at all hours of the night (while my chickens are trying to sleep, mind you).

We recently had contractors over to the house who didn't even realize we had chickens for the first couple of days until they walked around to that side of the house. That's right... they were just around the corner from the coop and couldn't smell or hear them. If someone is a responsible pet owner (whether chickens or dogs or whatever) then the current nuisance ordinances as they exist will never come into play. If they're an irresponsible pet owner, the nuisance ordinances that already exist apply evenly across the board so it's fair to everyone.
Michel Phillips
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February 01, 2013
I was at the meeting. Mr. Banks was not being disruptive; he was taking his turn to speak in his designated 3-minute slot, just like all the other members of the public who spoke. I don't see people speaking anonymously as a threat to democracy. The First Amendment says we have a right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. The First Amendment does not condition that right on giving your name. Thomas Paine famously wrote under a pseudonym, and the authors of The Federalist Papers were anonymous at the time of their publication. If it was good enough for the Founders, it should be good enough for Cobb County.
Scott Dobbins
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January 26, 2013
Letter to the Editor,

Mr. Mckee’s article on backyard chickens brings to light that Cobb County could use some Roosters as its needs a wake up call. First the treatment of Mr. Wise was pathetic and un-American. I thought there for a minute I was reading an article on Nazi Germany given his treatment. Apparently if you try to exercise your constitutional right to free speech you must do as de Fuehrer says or the Gestapo will escort you away. I’ve seen the same thing at the Cobb County School Board meetings. Same tactics used by a little man with a little mustache many years ago. I keep waiting for someone to put up a billboard entering Cobb on I-75 that says “papers, papers please”.

Second, the chicken ordinance itself in Cobb is just stupid. If you desire a couple of hundred parrots, not a problem, dozens or cockatoos, not an issue, but one chicken, hell no. Last time I checked they all had one thing in common, they’re birds. People state chickens are noisy. So is I-75, when are we going to close it down. People state chickens smell. No chicken poop smells, but so does all poop. In fact a 40 lb dog puts out as much poop as ten chickens. The difference is you can use chicken poop on your garden. Excuse me for thinking “green” there for a second. I thought it was in vogue based on tax dollars we spend on it.

Third, Mckee’s comment about the cost of having chickens is another issue. Why should anyone have to pay Cobb a penny to have chickens? They don’t pay for dogs, cats, snakes, rabbits, or any other animal. The ordinance in Cobb is flawed to start with. They know it, and that is why it will change, either through them or the courts. Less than two acres, no chickens, over two acres all you desire, that won’t stand.

I know one thing. At the next election I plan on voting against all these politicians. I’ve dealt with all the chicken crap from them I plan too.

FROM TEXAS
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January 25, 2013
Lee doesn’t really understand Roberts rules the person should have been called out of told to sit down and ask for the next speaker and you’re required to give your name for the record. Republicans or make believe Republicans’ don’t understand how a union style meeting is conducted and the arrest could have been avoided handled differently not Timmy’s style. Lee was right just didn’t handle it well at all and he looks like the bully. The fees being purposed are unfair and out of line with other fees or taxes.
4Chix
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January 25, 2013
We'll put you in the "no chicken" column along with the other 24% that don't want them. As for me, I'm with the majority that do. (According to your own MDJ online poll, or do you not read those?) We're not asking for NO restrictions - it could be based on size of the lot, HOA restrictions, etc. A $1000.00 non-refundable fee is ridiculous. Go visit some backyard chicken owners, enjoy an organic egg and educate yourself.
mk-oath keepers?
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January 25, 2013
Welcome to Cobb County, Police State.

The police are preparing to follow King Obamas orders.

These citizen arrests & harrasments, are practice runs.
The new Cobb-ME 1st
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January 25, 2013
Great column Mr. McKee. I attended the BOC meeting and was chocked to hear the chicken supporters. What about the neighbors? Do they need to hire a few coyotes? I have one running about, will tell him where to go.
yesitsoundsnuttytome
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January 26, 2013
Looks like Banks was too chicken to let go of the podium. Perhaps he should have just left well enough alone and crossed the road. The far right side of the road.

Not very (Banks) wise.

Like subdivision covenants would allow a chicken pen; get real, sonny.
BOC watcher
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January 25, 2013
You are spot on about everything in your article, Don, except for one thing. This little anarchist DID resist the police when asked to step down. He grabbed the podium, stiffened up, and would not let go. He was not arrested...just released to his parents who probably told him "Good job, son."
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