Frederick MD code violation - help!

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by MsHenley, Sep 25, 2011.

  1. MsHenley

    MsHenley New Egg

    Sep 25, 2011
    I recently received a code violation from the City of Frederick MD for having backyard chickens. The ordinance dates to the 1950s and says "no livestock for profit or pleasure." My girls are definitely pleasurable so I'm not sure how an ordinance can block that. And isn't it my constitutional right to pursue happiness? I am in the process of an appeal, but would really appreciate some help and guidance on how to approach this. Surely, I'm not the first the encounter antiquated laws as applied to back yard chickens.
    Ms Henley
  2. OwlLover

    OwlLover Alaskan Wanderer

    Aug 25, 2011
    The 1950s?!? [​IMG] [​IMG]
    I don't see how that can still be active.
  3. Lazy J Farms Feed & Hay

    Lazy J Farms Feed & Hay Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:The United States Constitution is over 200 years old, lets throw that at too.

    Kind of a bad idea, right?
  4. Two Creeks Farm

    Two Creeks Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 23, 2011
    Hedgesville, WV
    Good luck, maybe get Blaine Young involved. Not many non liberal folks in Frederick these days.
  5. Uniontown Poultry

    Uniontown Poultry Chillin' With My Peeps

    Have totally been there (won my battle with my township in 2004). Here's what I can say... the zoning board (ZB) members don't have to know the law well, or even the ordinance well. They usually want to just keep the status quo going b/c it's easy & no one's complaining about it. There's a chance your ZB is ignorant of the full text of the ordinance and what it means (especially if this has never been encountered before by them), or it could be that your ordinance has conflicting sections and can be open to more than one interpretation, or it could even be unconstitutional. ZB's may not have to listen to what you say to them, but the DO have to follow what the ordinance says. So you need to know that ordinance as well as possible & plan a highly organized attack. And expect to make a "shotgun approach" with multiple arguments, even ones that might seem conflicting.

    If you do not have a copy of the zoning ordinance, get one ASAP. This is Absolute Job #1. Many ordinances and codes are available online (usually on the municipality's website). You'll want to print/copy: a) the definitions part of the zoning ordinance, b) the permitted/prohibited/conditional uses (as in uses of land) part of the zoning ordinance, and c) the part of the zoning ordinance that says that persons in X, Y, and Z districts can do A, B, C, and D but not E, etc. You'll also want to print/copy any section that deals with "statutory construction" or "interpretation," as well as any that talk about your appeal rights. Also, copy any section on "animals" or "nuisances." If the ordinance is not available online, you can get a copy from the ZB or municipality office (or at least a copy of the relevant sections) - they are legally obligated to provide you with a copy, but they can charge modest copying fees.

    Once you have the ordinance, check the following:

    1) Does the "definitions" part of the zoning ordinance define "livestock" as something different from "poultry"? (if "livestock" does not say it includes poultry/domestic fowl, then you may not be violating this section of the ordinance, since it relates to livestock and not poultry) Is the language used to describe poultry and livestock in part based upon their uses as food? (If so, then pet chickens would not fall under that definition if you eat neither them nor their eggs)
    2) If the way that something in the ordinance should be interpreted is not clear, what is the standard used to determine what it really means?
    (this would be the "statutory construction" or "interpretation" language in the ordinance, and sometimes it is VERY slanted towards the homeowner, which could help you if there are any ambiguities in the ordinance)
    3) Do the "uses" that are permitted in your zoning area include the right to use your property for hobbies or "avocational" interests? If so, you might be able to argue that "livestock" and "poultry" are for food, while your chickens are pets and a hobby, and thus allowed.
    4) Can you qualify for a variance or "special exception" for a "non-conforming use" (i.e. a use that might not be allowed)? If so, what's the procedure for filing a petition, and what do you have to show to get the exception/variance?

    Other than the fact that you are allegedly in violation of the ordinance, what (if any) other objections have been raised? Noise? Odor? Mess? Do your neighbors know about the chickens & are they in favor or do they object?

    Many municipalities have these old ordinances, and they are valid, as long as they are not unconstitutional. They aren't usually used that often (for poultry anyway) and tend to be ill-understood, even by those in charge of enforcing them. Sometimes just learning that ordinance well and being a tenacious fighter can help you win your case, b/c they may determine that granting you a variance or special exception or some other permit is more economical than continuing to fight you. I see that you are in Frederick, Md, and there is an active Poultry Club in that area. I would suggest contacting them, as I'll bet you this has come up before w/ at least one of their members & they may have some special insight or ideas that could help.

    Lastly, in addition to being a veteran of such a "chicken fight" with my own ZB, I also happen to be a licensed attorney (in PA only, though). I am currently writing a blog entry about a step-by-step chicken-legalizing plan. I can't represent you, but I can look over your ordinance (a lot of the structure and information among ordinances is very similar), and can help you plan and strategize how to do your appeal. I offer my experience and services 100% free of charge, because I believe STRONGLY that everyone should be allowed to keep some chickens in their yard, just like everyone can have an organic garden in their yard. Outsiders like hostile neighbors and ZB members often just don't understand how modern backyard poultry is done, and unfortunately, sometimes this is how they get educated. PM me if you want my assistance & we'll get crackin'. Krista
  6. frederickurbangrowers

    frederickurbangrowers New Egg

    Oct 4, 2011
    Hi, can you please update me on what happened at your code violation hearing? I did not go because you never told me what time it was scheduled. I really am curious what is going on. Thanks. [​IMG]
  7. chickgrrl

    chickgrrl Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 30, 2012
    Here's some information:

    The keeping of chickens on Residential zoned property less than 3 acres in size, was recently considered by the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC). On April 17, 2012 the BoCC held a hearing to consider several text amendments to the zoning ordinance. One of the text amendments that was approved created a new category of “LIMITED AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITY”. Limited Agricultural Activity is defined as “The keeping of farm animals in residential districts on lots with less than 3 acres...” Keeping chickens on residentially zoned property would fall under this category.

    I'm not sure I'm running out to get some immediately but I think that its legal.

    You have to fill out an applicaion to the Board of Appeals. If I get more information I'll update.
  8. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

    Jan 4, 2009
    Tempe, Arizona
    Well, the constitution dates from the 1700s...[​IMG]

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