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.