Case law-zoning challenges-

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Markp1964, Sep 17, 2007.

  1. Markp1964

    Markp1964 In the Brooder

    Sep 4, 2007
    I am going to be going head to head with the zoning Nazis and City officials.
    I need some case law and legal precidents I can make reference to-if you are aware of you have your self been involved in a court case about your chickens or have worked to change zoning regs, please let me know.
  2. eggzettera

    eggzettera Songster

  3. Nadine gave you a good link - those ladies in Maine are a great example of how to take on city hall and win, but I just want to clear up a common misconception about case law and this type of thing.

    Case law and legal precedent will not help you here, because this issue is not under the jurisdiction of the trial courts. This is zoning, animal control and local government and so you’re squarely in the administrative law process.

    You need to read and thoroughly understand your local zoning codes and bylaws as they apply to chickens and you also need to read and understand any state laws referenced in your local zoning law, because you need to prove why you deserve an exception, and/or you need to prove that the town did not follow correct administrative procedure when they denied or fined you.

    One last thing about administrative law: you must be patient- very patient. This will be a very tedious process that will feel very very bureaucratic, but you must follow the process and rules to the letter. Do not miss a deadline or fail to give all of the information asked for because it will only delay the processes even further and hurt your argument

    You might not need an attorney - we didn’t use one when we sought a zoning variance, and we still won (not for chickens, but a variance is a variance.) All you need to be is tenacious, patient and very very polite. Do not ever give a hard time to a municipal employee - you can't shoot the messenger because you will need their expertise and help to find the right information.

    Be persistent. polite and follow your instincts - if it feels like you don’t have all the facts, you probably don't, and test ALL of your assumptions - don't take anything at face value unless you are 150% certain you are right an you can prove it.

    Good luck!

  4. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

  5. carla

    carla Hatching

    May 3, 2007
    I went through this process back in 2003/2004. Lost the first batch of birds; worked to have the ordinance changed; got my second batch of birds (who are now 2 1/2 years old).

    If you like, contact me and I can fill you in. It is a long process - one year (plus maybe two weeks) to the day I had to remove our first chickens, the new ordinance went into effect. It won't happen overnite - nothing in gov't. does. If you stick with it, and even offer to help it will go a long way.

    Be patient. Good Luck!

  6. Markp1964

    Markp1964 In the Brooder

    Sep 4, 2007
    I appreciate the replies and input.
    At this point Ive had a long phone conversatoin and excahnged emails with the chief zoning officer and talk briefly with the cities mayor (who is esentially the chair of City Council). I gave the mayor some paper work to look over-news articles about the urban hen movement, a list of cities that do allow chickens, and print outs of some of the supporting documents used by the mother and daughter in South Portland.
    Her reply-which I got as a message on my answering machine seemed to be a parroting of all the crap objections the zoning officer made, with no reference to any of the information I had given her. In official outlook my community is more worried about neighbor's objections and discomfort to a new or odd situation rather than being concerned with my basic right as a property owner to do what I want on my land.

    I really wonder if I need to make an official challange right now, because I do know there are others keeping chickens in the area-in city limits-and I do not want to rock the boat for them. What would be great is to form a real group-like Mad City Chickens-and take on CIty Hall en mass.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2007
  7. SeaChick

    SeaChick Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    Southern Maine
    South Portland mom here. I'd be happy to talk to you about this. Your situation sounds a lot like ours, the city's concerns were first and foremost neighbors opionions and property values. We really started from scratch and it was a major, hugely labor-intensive undertaking. But obviously it can be done. Feel free to email me directly if you want more details. I can forward you the early materials/arguments we used and fill you in on the various opposition arguments and how we countered them. Also, there were several "secret" chicken owners here as well, they got really involved in the "campaign" without telling anyone they had chickens. It's really easy to get support from the public- in our town atleast there are SO MANY people who think that anything you can do to help the environment, live sustaiably, eat locally, etc is a good thing. Then there are those who don't think that anyone should tell you what you can or can't do on your land, they'll support you. And the whole bit about it being a great lesson for kids, both on a personal level (responsibility) and for the community in general (food comes from the ground and animals, not a plastic package) is great if you have kids, grandkids, or neighbor kids involved.
    You are definitely going to need to show a lot of community support, though. I'd talk to those other chicken owners and get people to rally on this. Get a petition going and bring a couple hundred signatures to the city council. Bring lots of people, too, to say they think its a good ides.
    OK, I am rambling. Email if you like. I am going out to source coop materials, since we go to apply for our permit next week!!!
    Oh, PS. Not to advocate anything illegal, but I will pass on what our city councilor told us: Sometimes it's better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. Got supportive neighbors who wouldn't turn you in?
  8. Markp1964

    Markp1964 In the Brooder

    Sep 4, 2007

    Thanks for your posting on the Forum, its great to hear from you since you are a "soldier in the trenches" and have gotten your hands dirty with this. I think the biggest difference between where you are and where I am is that this is the very heart of conservative, white bread suburbia. Sticking out or being different is not encouraged-as I am finding out. We moved here a few years ago for the school system and Ive been holding my nose ever since becasue it is just so up tight in many ways. As I get in touch with other chicken keepers here I am going to push for an organization and possibly a fight with city hall.

    In the meantime Im going to doodle and sketch out a nice little hen house that looks like a really cute dog house or rabbit hutch (legally sanctioned animals) and get a few chicks come spring. As you say better to ask forgivness than permission, and I have it right from the zoning officials own lips that they are a complaint based agency, so IF I say that keeping 3 hens should go unnoticed by my neighbors, it will be a real test!

    Thanks again for your post!


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