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Ft Collins, CO change to restrict roosters where previously allowed

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by dretd, Nov 9, 2013.

  1. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Fort Collins has been a model in expanding Urban farming, until now.

    We have been able to keep farm animals including roosters on our 5 acre lot as four zoning areas have been exempt from all regulations regarding livestock. Recently the City has been examining the land use and is thinking of making the laws more lenient to include hoop houses, ducks and goats on small lots and also to allow farm stands in residential areas.

    Unfortunately, they are also considering tighter restrictions on Urban Estate and other zones where we had no restrictions before including banning rooster entirely and setbacks for livestock in property near ditches and streams (mine abuts both on 2 sides) citing concerns over run-off impacting stream health.

    The rooster ban has caught me totally off-guard. They cite 4-H and higher nutrition of eggs as the only reasons for keeping roosters and noise as the reason for the ban. This tells me that whomever came up with the proposal doesn't really know anything about roosters because I can come up with plenty of reasons to keep roosters, but egg nutrition is not one of them.

    I have 5 acres and the only close neighbor has told me that my rooster is charming and does not bother him. So why does the city feel compelled to restrict my rights? My ability to keep my horse is also impacted even though there is no run-off that would be a problem. Run-off from over-fertilized blue-grass lawns is a far bigger problem IMO.

    I think my historical property use will be restricted if this new ordinance is passed. Not only that, but I feel that I will be damaged because if it passed I will have to put up additional fencing for my horse and will no longer be able to raise my own replacement chicks. Or move out of the home I have owned for over 20 years.

    Any lawyers or legally savvy experts out there that can comment on the legitimacy of these restrictions when the city is trying to expand most areas to allow agriculture yet are cutting back the fair use of my previously unrestricted land? What are my options? How do I go about finding a lawyer that specializes in these sorts of issues?
     
  2. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am considering engaging a lawyer and have sent off an email to one that does real property law.

    Has anyone investigated hiring a lawyer or hired a lawyer to help them fight this sort of animal use restrictions placed on previously rooster-friendly areas?

    Any thoughts on how to screen a lawyer for this engagement?

    How much did it end up costing and were you successful in fighting city hall?

    Here is the wording on the survey they asked input on

    Roosters – The focus group discussed the benefits (improved nutritional value of the eggs and opportunity to raise roosters for 4-H) and drawbacks of raising roosters (noise) within the City and determined the drawbacks outweighed the benefits. Staff is planning to prohibit roosters within City limits.

    Sounds like a done deal to me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2013
  3. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    First, start a grass-roots effort from others who these changes will impact; you cannot be the only person who will lose rights. Next, meet with city staff and ask where the interest in restricting what is currently allowed originated? Are there documented noise complaints? How many, and to what extent have they been investigated for legitimacy? One can create objective noise nuisance criteria such as a specific decibel level as measured at the property line; and/or consistent, repetitive noise above that level and/or between certain hours (say 8pm to 6am). If a person can house their birds so as to not exceed that noise level there should be no issue. If there are not currently large numbers of legitimate complaints, there also is no issue.

    As for runoff or pollution, do they have any legitimate studies showing that there is a problem? And if so, what exactly is being found in the water, and at what levels? Yes, runoff could be a concern, but there is a big difference in one horse in a field with a stream and a feedlot that drains into a stream.
     
  4. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to give me suggestions. I am formulating a list of questions for all the folks I am calling to get an understanding of the situation so your points were very timely and will be incorporated into the list.

    I am not sure how many folks are impacted as there are very few acreages left in the city. Most Urban Estate lots are maybe 1/3-1/2 acre with newer large homes and very restrictive covenants that are aggressively enforced by their HOAs. So I fear it will be a mere handful of folks that are really impacted by the rules and no one else will care because it does not directly have an impact on them.

    Here is a link to the webpage if you have any extra time in your life to help me out: http://www.fcgov.com/developmentreview/urbanagriculture.php

    I really and truly appreciate the advice!
     
  5. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    If the HOAs are having an issue, their covenants are already covering it, and your zoning shouldn't need to be changed. It very much brings up my question of how many complaints are they actually getting? An alternative you could propose is that they create a new zoning of Urban Agriculture for larger properties such as yours that retain the less restrictive code. You should also look into the ciry's current non-conforming use (grandfathering) policy. There is a chance that even if the changes go through, you would be protected by this. But you need to be proactive. Grandfathering policies differ, and some only last as long as the use is continually maintained, so if you ever didn't have your roosters, you would loose the priviledge. And others cover only the current animals, so one they pass, you would not be able to replace them. And other grandfathering clauses are more generous, and continue forever.
     
  6. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Sonoran Silkies and thanks again for your advice.

    I am being as pro-active as possible considering I just got the postcard on Saturday!

    I talked to my closest neighbors, the ones who told me my rooster was charming, and they had not received the post card informing them of the meeting. They also confirmed that the rooster doesn't bother them. The front of the post card had a picture of a goat's head with the word bubble saying 'hoop houses?' The website is not very specific about limiting rights but rather is slanting it as expanding urban AG rights. Its not until you take the survey that the full extent of the limits and their intentions are exposed. I suspect that they are trying to get this under the radar and they can say they let people know about the meeting but no one was inspired to go becasue they didn't realize their rights would be taken away.

    I have a vet friend with roosters that lives just on the outside of city limits and may get annexed some day. She is friends with the Director of the LC Humane Society and has offered to contact her to see if she can help. I absolutely am being as pro-active as I can be cuz I am pretty hopping mad right now!

    I will look into aspects of Grandfathering. One of the questions asks if they should allow owners time to come into compliance which leads me to believe that grandfathering is optional. Is does inspire me to follow through my my thoughts about getting a companion donkey for my horse and fainting goats and a cute sheep and raising some turkeys, too. Maybe a goose. What am I leaving out that I might need someday??

    I hadn't thought about them creating a separate zoning for Urban Estate lots that are over 1 or 2 acres and having them continue with the current agriculture rulea which is no restrictions on farm animals.

    What I find really perplexing is that you could easily fit 20 homes on my lot if it were subdivided as per normal neighborhoods in the city and if each home got the allowed 2 goats, there would be 40 goats total on my land. And yet they want to limit me to 2 on my 5 acres just becasue. My covenants restrict me to 8 hoofed stock so I am already limited. This seems so illogical and feels like I am being singled out without cause.

    My big question, is: do I consult the lawyer before the meeting and inform the city I have engaged legal council, or would that make them confrontational and escalate the situation and do more harm than good? Any thoughts?

    Any more thoughts on how to be more proactive are welcomed!
     
  7. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

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    Those promoting increased allowances for backyard chicken may not realize how much they are impacting the rights of those who can already have them, such as your zoning? Worth calling and asking.

    As for consulting an attorney, call and ask about initial consultation fees. Sometimes an initial visit is lower cost, allowing you to gather data to make an informed decision. Nothing says that you must tell the city that you have consulted with an attorney--you can use their responses to your conversation to make that disclosure at any later date or not at all. If you can afford an initial consultation, IMO, it will give you legal information that you do not currently have. Even if you decide not to hire the attorney and pursue the case, you can better know your rights and how to go about obtaining your goals.

    To what extent is the plan city driven versus driven my some group of citizens? All too often (based upon what I read here), well meaning folks who want to have backyard chickens add in all kinds of unnecessary limitations (such as disallowing roos). If you objectively define nuisances (noise, odor, etc.), that really takes care of it.

    If you can maintain 100 roosters without violating an objective nuisance, you should be able to have them. A house I owned back in the late 1970s had a finished, walkout basement that was so well insulated, I am certain I could have kept many roosters in there and none of the neighbors would have ever known. And the lots were not particularly wide--maybe 20-30' between houses. That was LONG before I ever dreamed that one day I would have chickens.
     
  8. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just got off the phone with the city worker in charge of the program. She claimed she was surprised that the survey was worded in such a way as to imply that they have already made up their decision and that she was happy to hear my input. Do I believe her? I would like to believe her but I have been burned before so...

    She said that there are many complaints in my zone category about rooster noises. I asked how many complaints there were against dogs barking and whether they are thinking of banning dogs, but she declined to respond.

    The problem as I see it, after talking with her, is that there are many folks who want to live on properties with elbow room 1-3 houses per acre instead of packed in to 5-6 per acre. Many of these are older areas that do not have HOAs or covenants and allow farm animals. The newcomers realize after they move in that farm animals make noises, smell and have sex out of doors. Egad. So the complaints come pouring in about the noise probably becasue there is a noise ordinance but no ordinance governing chicken procreation. I believe that because farm animals are allowed, it becomes difficult to enforce noise infractions because they do not specifically talk about roosters. So its the old timers vs the newcomers.

    I will go to the meeting next week and an preparing to push back pretty hard, It is not acceptable to limit my ability to raise roosters since I am now breeding Cream Legbars. I told her flat out, and this may be a mistake, that it will necessitate me hatching many many chicks every year and I will always need multiple roosters but that I am a good neighbor and they have my phone number so the city need not make regulations in my case.

    What the city is trying to do is to legislate someone to force them to be a good neighbor. What they fail to consider is that the new person who moves in to an area that allows livestock and then complains about the livestock is the one that is not being a good neighbor. Its sort of like folks that move into a new posh community of million dollar homes that is built near the local airport then complain at every HOA meeting about the plane noise. And the interstate 1 mile away. True story told to me by a guy that had to have a beer before every meeting just to keep from throttling the living **** out of the rich whiners.
     
  9. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I attended the City's open house. There were very few citizens that showed up--maybe 10. They hade the survey results posted as of the day before the meeting and they showed that 58% of the people who took the survey did not think that roosters should be banned from the City, which is very good news.

    I was introduced to a gentleman who is very anti-rooster. I showed him photos of my daughter with a rooster chick on her shoulder and explained that this was why we have a rooster--to make more chickens! He replied that I could just get them at a hatchery. He said in his subdivision of 2-5 acre lots that a few folks have decided to have roosters and they are making life hard on everyone else. They have no HOA and he does't think he should have to form one to ban them and he wants the city to act as an HOA and enforce a rooster ban. The City had someone from mediation there and we talked to her. He said he did not feel mediation would be of any use. It comes down to some want roosters and feel it is their right to keep them since they are zoned for it and some do not feel they belong in their neighborhood and want them banned. SO basically there are a small number of people that are very vocal and upset about having their expensive homes in a neighborhood where they have to listen to roosters even though they knew (or should have known) farm animals were allowed in the subdivision when they bought their homes.

    The City has no objective criteria for noise in this regard. They did lend me a Decibel meter so I can establish how loud rooster noise is vs the ambient noise vs engine braking noise. I am trying to figure out the best way to present that data. My rooster has of course been silent the last 2 days becasue we have a snowy cold-snap and he isn't motivated to crow.

    The City gal asked how I would feel about it if they allowed roosters if the neighbors signed off on them. I am thinking that although my neighbors are ok, some just will say no becasue they can. It shifts it from one person with roosters having control over the matter to the people without the rooster having control over the matter. The rights are still taken away and one citizen is granted new power over another..

    After thinking about your post, I think if they allow roosters, but decide to restrict them in some way to appease the complainers, they would need to have some objective criteria in place such as the roosters must be kept a certain distance (say 50 feet) from the neighbors dwellings.

    Do you know if there have been any studies done about how loud roosters can crow and what distance away from the crow is deemed non-problematic? I know when mine crows under my window (say 20 feet) it is pretty loud, vs by the hen house at maybe 60 feet which is not bad and barely audible with closed windows if at all. What would your opinion be about having that sort of criteria in place? Other recommendations?

    Thanks for your help!
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
  10. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    City of Concord, in Contra Costa County, CA, performed a review/survey of other municipalities `noise abatement' regs, in formulating their own guidelines. The breakout by city is included in charts at the end of the presentation, might be useful.

    http://www.cityofconcord.org/pdf/citygov/agendas/council/2009/0105/4B.pdf

    There are some folks who simply don't like crowing roosters, and it has little to do with the decibel level.

    Collias, in his research on the vocalizations of the Red Jungle Fowl, noted the a Cock's crow could be heard at mile's distance (and even that barely audible signal would probably set some sensitive souls' teeth on edge...).
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013

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