changing laws

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by thomas, Feb 23, 2009.

  1. thomas

    thomas New Egg

    Dec 2, 2008
    It seems that there is no one out there that has any clear information on the process or documented protocols on how to give a city council enough information to allow them to deliberate knowlegeably. Has anyone prepared a proposal to a governing body that makes any sense or is it just a bunch of rants on how we are sneaking under the radar and hope the neighbors don't complain. Perhaps an attorney or someone with this kind of background could speak to this with some sense of rationalism. Tom
  2. HeatherHillary

    HeatherHillary Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 9, 2008
    Portland OR
    I totally agree with you, and feel your frustration.

    I think the reason that we don't have a unified pre-made statement to throw at all of these city councils is this:
    All of the villages, towns, cities, municipalities, states, and countries have their own individual bylaws and ordinances, that address backyard poultry in their own ways, so every fight against every town (city, etc ...) bylaw has to be tailored to that bylaw. We could make an all-encompassing proposed bylaw that covers all of the concerns of all of the bylaws and ordinances that we are trying to overturn, but it would be overkill, bringing up issues that weren't covered in some bylaws, and causing people to object to things that they hadn't even thought to object to before.

    On the other hand, in this digital age, all of us chicken fans are digitally connected and could easily unite behind a common bylaw, and push it onto all of our governmental bodies, probably even successfully, if we just gave it a try.

  3. gardener

    gardener Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 8, 2007
    Willamette Valley
    I was just at the Salem Oregon city council meeting tonight. this subject was presented very well. THe group is called C.I.T.Y. (Chickens in the Yard). THey had multiple speakers all covering a different topic and or concern. To allow for the 3 min time limit that the public is allowed to speak. It seemed to well and the council has moved to put it on the agenda in the upcoming weeks. They have made a packet of info that was presented to the council mebers, that included pics of coops and all the info on keeping chickens and the concerns of smell, disease,
    noise, property value any complaints. There were letters of support by neighborhood associations. From city officials that are currently allow hens in their cities. Articles from news publications about the growing trend of urban chickens. Some of the cities that allow hens and the way the laws are written for those cities.
  4. SewingDiva

    SewingDiva Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:I completely agree HH and your observation is a perfect explanation of why this can be such a daunting task. As a paralegal I have experience in law and legal research. Since this section of BYC opened up last year I’ve noticed two different prongs regarding backyard chicken regulations: (1) situations where there is no law, or the current law is silent or insufficient in addressing backyard chickens, or (2) there is already a regulation on the books that bans backyard chickens and people want to change it.

    Different legal strategies are required for (1) or (2). In the case of (1) it’s a matter of researching laws in communities similar to yours and locating laws that you might want to adopt for you community and getting a law passed. In the case of (2), which is more difficult, you need to prove that the current law is unreasonable and/or unfair with respect to the reality of keeping backyard chickens.

    My town’s chicken bylaw could be used to argue for (1). Westwood MA has a really good backyard chicken bylaw for an urban or suburban community (just download the PDF). It’s well written, thorough, easy to understand, fair and reasonable. I recommend it 100% as an example of what other communities might want to consider.

    In the case of a situation like (2), the best current example of how to fight the prevailing regulations is what is going on in Cary NC. Michael Manfre and his wife have been origin for a few years now on changing their town’s chicken regulations. It’s been challenging because there are entrenched political interests who are biased against chickens, however Michael has been dogged in his fight to change this I think he will prevail in the end. He has a great web site and he posts here from time to time too.

  5. thomas

    thomas New Egg

    Dec 2, 2008
    Thanks for your replies. I think I can at least get started in a step by step fashion to attempt to make some headway in this current situation I am in with having been notified by my neighbors to the attention of the animal control department. I will use your suggestions.
  6. tcjim

    tcjim New Egg

    Feb 28, 2009
    If you want to oppose the local laws in Michigan you need to use the Michigan State Right to Farm Act (RTFA).

    Your local officials will hit you with several illegal laws. One law they may try to use is that you are not in a agricultural zone area. To combat this statement use the court case:

    Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished13 No.
    268920 (2006))
    Case Name: Papadelis v. Troy (Oakland County)

    In the court case the city argued that the defendent was in violation of the cities residential zoning ordinance. The city lost and the court stated "A farm operation that conforms to generally
    accepted agricultural and management practices is
    entitled to the protection provided by the RTFA
    without regard to the historic use of the property
    in question"

    Further more in the case:

    Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished11 No.
    246596 (2004))
    Case Name: Village of Rothbury v. Double JJ Resort
    Ranch (Oceana County

    It was stated by the court:

    “Because an ordinance provision that only
    permits single family dwellings, playgrounds, and
    parks would prohibit farming operations, the
    ordinance provision conflicts with the RTFA and
    is unenforceable.”

    These two cases should get you past the local zoning board if you are in a residential area.

    Next they may go after you for the size of your land saying that it is to small to meet the the local zoning requirement. If they try this use the following court case:

    Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (267 Mich. App. 92;
    702 N.W.2d 92 (2005))
    Case Name: Shelby Township v. Papesh (Macomb

    It was stated by the court in this case:

    “The ordinance conflicts with the RTFA to the
    extent that it allows plaintiff to preclude a
    protected farm operation by limiting the size of a
    farm...Any township ordinance, including a
    zoning ordinance, is unenforceable to the extent
    that it would prohibit conduct protected by the

    If they say you dont sell enough to qualify as a farm the above case will work to combat this arguement, but you will need to satisfy the following statement issued by the court:

    “If defendants’ farm is to be protected by the
    RTFA, it must be also engaged in breeding,
    raising and selling poultry for commercial
    purposes as well as being in compliance with the
    appropriate GAAMPs as determined by the
    [Michigan] Commission [of Agriculture

    So sell some eggs to a friend and you are ok.

    Also if they complain about sound or smell you just need to prove that you are following generally accepted agricultural and management practices as defined by the State of Michigan. Currently I believe the State only has written regulations for farms over 2000 chickens.

    Then you need to inform the enforcement officer of the following quote fron the RTFA:

    "In any nuisance action brought in which a farm or farm operation is alleged to be a nuisance, if the defendant farm or farm operation prevails, the farm or farm operation may recover from the plaintiff the actual amount of costs and expenses determined by the court to have been reasonably incurred by the farm or farm operation in connection with the defense of the action, together with reasonable and actual attorney fees."

    Let them know that if they lose you will seek legal cost from them.

    Finally tell them to read the RTFA and pay close attention to the following quote: “Farm” means the land, plants, animals, buildings, structures, including ponds used for agricultural or aquacultural activities, machinery, equipment, and other appurtenances used in the commercial production of farm products"

    Basically if you treat your chickens well and sell a few eggs there is nothing the can do to you. If they do you can recover your cost from them when they lose in court. You must let them know this.

    For more information on the RTFA court cases got to: … 4-2006.pdf

    For the Right To Farm Act got: AND to AND farm AND act

    best of luck tcjim
  7. vermontgal

    vermontgal Chillin' With My Peeps

    The Westwood ordinance posted above is comprehensive, yes, but it is very proscriptive. I think proposing a law that comprehensive (unless asked to do so by your local officials) just brings up more ideas and questions.

    A simpler ordinance may raise fewer red flags and also be sufficient, as most municipalities have noise and nuisance ordinances that they may invoke when there is a problem. For those who are asking for new or better ordinances, I would recommend to keep it simple if possible, but do your homework and bring out the full legalese when and if needed!

    Just my 2c.

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