Passions flare over backyard chicken issue
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
January 23, 2013 12:39 AM | 11761 views | 51 51 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Banks Wise of Mableton is handcuffed and escorted out of the Cobb Commission hearing on backyard chickens Tuesday night after refusing to give his name before speaking.<br>Staff/Emily Barnes
Banks Wise of Mableton is handcuffed and escorted out of the Cobb Commission hearing on backyard chickens Tuesday night after refusing to give his name before speaking.
Staff/Emily Barnes
slideshow
MARIETTA — A man who attempted to speak to the Cobb Board of Commissioners about the county’s proposed chicken ordinance Tuesday was forcibly removed from the lectern by two Cobb Police Officers and led out in handcuffs.

During the first of two public hearings on a proposal to allow chickens on property under 2 acres in size, speakers on both sides of the issue provided emotional appeals to the board.

Banks Wise, 25, of Mableton, said he had planned to attend the board meeting just to listen to what others had to say about various code proposals, including the one on chickens.

But then he stepped up to the lectern to address the commissioners during the public comment period, and board chairman Tim Lee asked him to recite his name.

Wise declined. Lee asked several more times for him to give his name before the police officers escorted him out of the board room, handcuffed him and took him to a lobby elevator.

“The gentlemen was not following the rules of the commission,” Lee said. “I asked him multiple times. He did not, so the officers removed him.”

Lee said he regretted the incident and that it was not something that had occurred before during his tenure as chairman. Lee said once speakers ignore his request, the decision is then up to police as to how to proceed.

“That’s a judgment up to the police officers who are charged with doing what they need to do,” Lee said. “That is their own personal decision. If they felt that their own personal decision and the safety of the other hundred here that was required that he left the room, then I have to support the police officers decision. My understanding is he’s been since released with a warning.”

Wise said two things prompted him to speak to commissioners. One was a comment by a previous public speaker opposed to a code change for chickens. That speaker, Ron Sifen of Vinings, argued that homeowners had certain expectations with the zoning laws in place when they bought their homes. To allow chickens in their neighborhood was, therefore, wrong.

Wise said he wanted to argue that just because a law is on the books, it doesn’t make it constitutional.

“I’m saying that being able to have a chicken was always right. There was just at some point a very bad law,” Wise said.

Another point that bothered him was that Lee demanded that each speaker give his or her name.

“On two times people spoke, and Tim Lee interrupted them and asked them for their names, and the way the government uses that kind of force, it seemed very forceful and as I was trying to explain to Tim Lee while I was talking to him that I would have given my name, I had no problem with it, but I wanted them to know you shouldn’t have to, and I just wanted to say that peacefully. I just thought that that needed to be said,” Wise said.

Lee has a different view.

“We have a consistent policy that we know who’s speaking to us. That’s been part of the rules for decades. We need to be consistent,” Lee said.

Wise said he is active in Republican circles and works in real estate.

“It always saddens me when people’s rights are trampled. It has upset some friends of mine. One of their children cried when they saw me being walked out tonight,” he said.

His father, Lamar Wise of Mableton, active in the campaign of state Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw), was in the audience when his son was handcuffed.

“I thank God that he’s safe with us tonight and they were wise enough not to carry through with any further actions against him and released him as peacefully as we could have hoped,” the older Wise said. “I think he felt that he was still speaking with the chairman, who knows him personally. He’s met him months ago and we were all talking in the aisle way directly before the meeting, more than once, at Republican Party events.”

As for whether the younger Wise will take action against the county, he said he first wants to clear his head.

“I think it’s always good to have a thinking period so I’m trying to make decisions right now,” he said.
Comments
(51)
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East Cobber
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January 29, 2013
I've never really thought about having chickens, but I've enjoyed hearing the debate. While I may or may not want them myself, why shouldn't my neighbors be allowed - it's their property! Some how everyone seems to be able to control themselves with the number of dogs and cats they have, and I have no reason to believe my neighbors wouldn't do the same with chickens. Plus I could take my kids over to visit and maybe bring back an egg or two! The Commissioners should make it easier, not harder.
Live and Let Live
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January 25, 2013
I will keep my chickens out of your yard. Unless you are a nosy neighbor you will not even know I have them.

The cancer causing chemicals you spray on your lawn are worse than a few chickens.
anonymous
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January 24, 2013
The article is mostly correct, the minor inaccuracies & lack of detail probably coming from the fact that the situation is hard to put into words. Maybe because of the over expedient actions taken by the authorities among other other things, it really did all happen within "the blink of an eye" as a friend put it.

I thought it would be constructive to add that from what I've gathered Tim Lee knew the young man by name prior as did the author of the article.

I don't wish to try an calculate what rights are more important than others, I have voluntarily chosen to take interest in property rights but the over reach of government in the rest of our daily lives is just as important especially when it affects free expression in public places.

To quote someone else here :

"Without our first amendment rights, our speakers would not have been allowed to share their opinions. I think overall it was a very good night for Liberty. I wish we could all stick up for both rights together and fully support each other as we try to open up the minds of people who are oblivious to the overreach of our government."

Custom (ie giving out your name) is voluntary. Think about how is would make you feel to be forced to do other things you normally do by custom.

clmiron
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January 24, 2013
I am glad to see mixed in with the "me me me" comments so many reasonable and thoughtful posts looking at the bigger picture and looking forward.

I love the idea of a volunteer committee helping investigate forward thinking policies and proposing them to the county board. In fact, I would LOVE to be on such a board.

I do think it is time to reassess our priorities in Cobb County (and around the country, quite frankly). Issues like those concerning the right to backyard food production seem like a natural melding of both Conservative and Liberal ideals, where I think with a little discussion we can come to compromises that meet everyone's needs and desires in an intelligent way.

Conservatives value self-reliance and independence... growing your own food and having your own eggs on site are a good example of this. Many liberals like the idea of knowing where their food comes from and the means by which it was done. Many desire food produced organically and locally instead of propping up large, potentially abusive, polluting factory farms.

I think in light of other environmental issues, Cobb County needs to revisit many of our property code ordinances and perhaps even some of the covenants allowed to be upheld in so many of our subdivisions, because they often not only perpetuate but DEMAND destructive, wasteful, and environmentally irresponsible behaviors be carried out on a massive scale. Many of these ordinances and covenants also block home owners from doing environmentally conscious things like occasionally using a clothesline or having rain catchment barrels. Maybe these things used to imply "poverty" and "minorities", but now they just as often represent young families with children looking to cut their utility bills and minimize their environmental impact. Surely many of these issues could be revisited, and standards be written that allow considerate and responsible practices that are forward thinking, rather than banning them based on outmoded priorities and perceptions.

I have also spent the last 3 years living next to a string of renters who have left their dogs out in the yard for 10 hours a day, often putting them out before 6am and leaving them out at night well after 1am. I have to think that I would have preferred they had chickens. I also know it is really frustrating as a home owner to be harassed and threatened with fines over having a rain barrel during a drought, or leaving grass longer on the hill at the very back of my property to prevent erosion, when I don't believe my rain barrels or my longer grass hidden from street view are actually ruining anyone else's quality of life or keeping them up at night. :)

weakest Eastines
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January 24, 2013
You are barking up the wrong tree. The county code ordinances DO NOT prohibit clotheslines and rain barrels. It sounds like you have an HOA that has covenants against these and that is up to your HOA; the county cannot be blamed for this. If the county got involved to make HOAs abolish these covenants, we would be in the same boat all of you are complaining about-the county telling people what to do. You need to take your issues up with your HOA and put the blame where the blame belongs. You are asking the county to take away rights of HOAs. I knew when I bought my home that I cannot own a motorcycle. I can't go to the HOA now and demand they let me own a motorcycle because it uses less gas than a car and I can't demand the county to force my HOA to allow motorcycles. We would need to all meet and agree to change the covenants.
to below..
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January 25, 2013
not barking,... clucking!
Dennis TM
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January 24, 2013
"Chickens are a Menace and are Dangerous to MY Neighborhood," says the busy soccer mom via Facebook on her "smart" phone from behind the wheel of 7,000 pounds of Yukon XL carrying nothing more than McDonald's trash, an empty Hydrocodone bottle, two Pomeranians, a threadbare (but real) D&G handbag, and her 250 packed on pounds from agrifarm foodproduct. "My kids need their video games, not some chicken to tend to. These people who want to get back to basics can bite my patootie! This is COBB County. We don't do that here!"
yes thank you
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January 29, 2013
best comment i have read in a long long time. the truth hurts but boy is it funny when highlighted. nice job Dennis!

Elnuestros
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February 01, 2013
She might be a lacrosse mom. And you forgot to mention the prosperity gospel how-to book shoved under the seat.
Connie Mack Jr
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January 23, 2013
Help is on way! A Spokensperson for the Big Chicken said today. " It appears that Mr Lee has no idea what a Big Chicken can do for his little chicks when their Consitutional Rights are tramble by a Fascist Control Freak who demands a name and address for his local Homeland Security Force"
anonymous
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January 23, 2013
Tim Lee is a despicable putz. He owes this man and all freedom loving citizens of this county an apology.

I am sorry Cobb county police decided to play the part of "jackboot thug" in this very sickening episode of government bully.
Just Wait
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January 23, 2013
I suppose we should feel blessed that our county Commissions makes the news on issues like backyard chickens and not bribes and kickbacks. The commission is perfectly right in setting rules and regulations for the conduct of public meetings, even if it includes requiring citizen speakers to state their names. If you don't want to abide by the rules, there will always be some type of consequences. Don't blame Lee or the police officers. If the young man who so happily gave his name to the MDJ would have done the same at the meeting, this conversation would have never happened.
Jon Bork.
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May 06, 2014
So in your libtard mind a person should be arrested for simply not giving his name?
No Roosters
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January 23, 2013
I have a dozen chickens and nobody knows. º¿º
anonymous
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January 23, 2013
Cobb County has to be very careful with the chicken situation and it is a matter that deserves careful and serious deliberation. Cobb County is not a rural county. If laws are changed to allow for backyard chickens, it needs to state iron-clad this doesn't mean roosters. Roosters rise at the very crack of dawn and crow loudly. (I have an electric rooster alarm clock;trust me, roosters will wake you up.) It needs to state iron-clad that livestock (chickens only) does not mean donkeys who bray at all times of the day and night. I don't think the Commission has been difficult or is being difficult, I think they are being careful and considering each and every angle, which is the correct thing for them to do. This is about chickens and let's get it back to chickens; not First Amendment rights, police wrongdoings, what kind of county Cobb is, whether you like Lee or not, etc. It is about chickens. Period. I cry "fowl." There are many things to consider. There would be an extra burden on Animal Control because most likely there would be some chicken owners that did not keep their chicken coops in a sanitary condition and Animal Control would have to enforce the law with violators. There could be an existing homeowner that already has a fenced yard with an outside dog that would not tolerate chickens next door very well. A lot of things need to be considered and let's keep it to the subject at hand; chickens.
Joseph Pond
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January 24, 2013
The County clearly defines poultry and livestock as two different things. Those against poultry use the term livestock to create a more negative image. Rural vs Urban is not the issue- most all large cities, including Atlanta, NY, and Chicago, allow chickens including roosters. They are doing fine with this. Keep in mind that Cobb has no limits on the number of pets that a person can own provide that they can reasonably take care of them. Why can poultry owners not be afforded the same rights?

I can legally own a pack of larg dogs that could carry disease, create sanitation issues, and maul or kill children and adults, but a handful of hens for fresh eggs is out of the question? A few ducks for relaxation is a threat to the neighborhood? I ask that people please do their research before passing judgement.
Salmonella and more
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January 23, 2013
I am opposed to Chickens in neighborhoods especially ones with 1 acre or less. Even so, it is critical that tough standards and minimum distances are set before neighborhood chickens are allowed. Remember someones back yard may be on the side of another neighbors house. Be aware: Chickens are not the resilient animals many people believe they are. They get mites. They get lice. They get impacted with eggs they are trying to lay or if their diet is inadaquate and their eggs become soft, at times they break in the abdomen. Respiratory disease is very common. Neurological diseases such as Marek's, can kill entire flocks and vaccination can only occur when the bird is less than two weeks old. Many owners do not want to pay for a vet and deseases flourish. Coccidia and giardia are common in chicken poop. Salmonella is normal on eggs and in bird excrement. In some breeds, foot infections are hard to cure. Chickens require more care than putting them out back and throwing them some scratch. Backyard owners in many cases believe chickens will take care of themselves, and won't have health problems and if they do die a new one can just be bought as a replacement.

factory farm
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January 24, 2013
You describe factory farm issues quite nicely. These are great reasons for people to have a couple chickens of their own. Dogs and cats are subject to all kinds of issues as well but Cobb has yet to implode because of it.
know ur rights
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January 23, 2013
This gentleman needs to contact Cynthia Counts @ Law Counts Group, Colony Square, Atlanta, Ga.

She is a 1st amendment lawyer & knows her stuff!
idontloveit
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January 23, 2013
Tim Lee is a bully. I left Cobb County about a year ago and never looked back. As far as the chickens go, rules are rules. I understand where Lee is coming from about the stating your name when you speak, but I can see him being very rude and aggressive about it. Once a bully, always a bully.
It's a Fad
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January 23, 2013
The reason why this has become an issue for all the "chicken lovers" is that when they bought their house, they never considered the thought of growing their own chickens and harvesting eggs. Therefore they didn't know the limits existed.

Now that it is so cool to be organic, they now are aware they cannot legally have chickens on their property.

The fad will die out soon enough, and they will move on to the next idea.

Ron McClellan
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January 23, 2013
Commissioner Lee was out of line. Someone in this comment thread incorrectly asserted that it's the law folks have to give their name. That is not true.

While frankly, I find Mr. Wises assertion he has the right of anonymity, our founding fathers worked hard to make it so citizens did NOT have to speak in anonymity. That being said, it works both ways. After the harassment Andrew Wordes endured by government officials in Rome Georgia, anonymity doesn't look like a bad idea. Commissioner Lee . . .kinda Nazilike and downright cowardly in trying to shirk responsibility to the officers he used as his goon squad. Wise and Lee: When two morons collide.
olegator
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January 23, 2013
How dare this peasant not to identify himself!

OverLord Lee ruled: "20 lashes for the offender. First these peasants turn down my T-splost, now they refuse to identify themselves addressing higher beings, next they will want to retain their right to keep and bear arms!"
East Cobb Mom
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January 23, 2013
I was surprised to find cities that required very large amounts of property and some cities that don't allow it? I would like to understand the reasoning behind not allowing in the first place regardless of the acreage requirements. Is it due to noise? If someone is outside a subdivision and has at least 3/4 of an acre, that is more than enough room to have a nice coop without bothering me. Believe me I have seen properties with more acreage that have created more noise and issues with their dogs than any chicken would make. Why not show Cobb County as being more forward thinking? Allow these families to have their chickens and just like any other animal if they become a nuisance then they get reported. I personally think it would be fun to have some!
Who Do
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January 23, 2013
Only Voodoo priests want to keep chickens in their yards. Chicken slaughtering is the work of the devil! Cobb is the Lord's County, so chickens stay out! Jesus shall overcome.
Jon Bork.
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May 06, 2014
Who do i had some voodoo chicken fried last night and either the devil or me said it was tasty.
WCBB
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January 23, 2013
What Could Be Better than having some back yard chickens for this day and age of ultra violence with sick people shooting up elementary schools?

Maybe if the shooter had backyard chickens as something to do growing up rather than playing violent video games, he would not have done what he did.

Ironically our Cobb Commission seems to be too high on their horse to see the benefits of fowl to society.
Freedom65
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January 23, 2013
I attended this meeting soley to support property rights. I will admit that I was not driven by chicken rights. However, I completely changed my mind after I heard so many eloquent and thoughtful comments made by so many citizens. They were truly inspiring. It is a shame that some believe that the First Amendement right issues may have detracted from the successes of the speakers and I intitally thought that too, but the more I think about it, the more I believe the two go hand in hand. Without our first amendment rights, our speakers would not have been allowed to share their opinions. I think overall it was a very good night for Liberty. I wish we could all stick up for both rights together and fully support each other as we try to open up the minds of people who are oblivious to the overreach of our government.
From Kennesaw
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January 23, 2013
Ron Sifen - as usual - was correct in his statement. Can't picture what Cobb County would look like with chickens all over the place. If the Chicken person wants to have chickens, he must know the rules by now. Why doesn't he buy a 2 acre, or more, lot somewhere else? Perhaps not available in East Cobb, but certainly in other parts of the county. Or outside the county.
Joseph Pond
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January 23, 2013
The city of Atlanta allows people to own up to twenty five chickens on any property. Buckhead is doing just fine with that- and so will Cobb County if given the chance.

Current laws provide no limit on dogs, cats, and even pot belly pigs. Is county overrun with these animals?

By Ron's theory, Cobb should NEVER allow change, as it would ruin the expectation of the people. How does that work?
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