Reasons why requiring your neighbor's PERMISSION is a bad idea

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by jbher, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. jbher

    jbher Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 21, 2013
    Hudson, WI
    Our City Council has voted to allow an ordinance change in our city - YAY! That's the good news. The bad news is that now it will go to our Public Safety committee to deliberate on ordinance drafting and wording. It has already been mentioned that they will try and include a requirement for neighbor permission. Many in our group, including me and another councilor on Public Safety, are against this.

    Reasons we have come up with:

    It's not fair, what about dogs and cats? No one has to ask their neighbor for permission to get either. Nor do you have to get your neighbor's permission to put up a fence, build a shed, etc.

    Neighbors move.

    Neighbors can change their minds.

    Neighbors can hold grudges. Your teenager who partied too late or tee-peed your neighbor's house may be still wreaking havoc on your neighbors nerves and they may want to take revenge and just say NO.

    Neighbors can just be jerks haha. As one of our members pointed out - her neighbor is just a jerk and he would never ever give his consent.

    I would like to hear from all of you if you can think of other reasons that we could submit to our councilor who is helping us. We are trying to do research to back this up too. Madison removed their neighbor notification requirement for chickens just a year or two ago because it proved to be a nuisance to keep track of, etc.

    1 person likes this.
  2. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

    Jan 4, 2009
    Tempe, Arizona
    All the reasons you cited. What should be regulated is NUISANCES, not their cause. Dogs bark, cats spray, stereos are plaid too loudly, lawnmowers and other engines are on too early/late, people don;t properly compost or dispose of waste, etc.... The NOISE (including reasonable times and decibel levels), ODOR and INFESTATIONS that impact others is what should be regulated, regardless of the cause.

    Say one gets all the neighbors' permission and then goes to extravagant expense to build the Taj Mahal of chickendom. A few months later a neighbor gets transferred and sells to someone who decides they do not want chickens in the neighborhood, regardless of how well maintained they may be, and how much of a nuisance they are not. Poof---all that expense becomes useless because of someone's whim. Not fair or reasonable.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2013
    3 people like this.
  3. iheartnh

    iheartnh Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 11, 2013
    Derry, NH
    You have a bunch of good reasons. I would be out of my skin if I was required to get "permission" from my neighbors to do anything on my own property.

    That said, it really seems like putting a pot on the stove, jacking up the heat, and waiting for it to boil over. What if you currently have a good relationship with a neighbor, but they say no to your chickens? Now you have an issue where one didn't exist before.

    What's the definition of "neighbor"? People who abut your property? People across the street? Within a certain radius? And if we're talking more than 2 people, does it need to be unanimous permission, or a majority?

    I think an ordinance like this would create far more ill-will than it will prevent.
    2 people like this.
  4. Nigellas

    Nigellas Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 14, 2008
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Ann Arbor, MI has this provision in the chicken ordinance. I think it's crazy stupid. Like you said, what if you get permission and a chickens, then you get new neighbors who don't give permission? Do you have to get rid of them?

    Many of my local friends did not get the permit. Since most laypeople don't realize a permit is required to have them (they just know chickens are now legal), they don't think twice about seeing them in someone's yard.
  5. jbher

    jbher Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 21, 2013
    Hudson, WI
    Well I did some research and found a few documents I'm going to provide our council to [hopefully] read. One was this one, it's written by an attorney, too - good stuff:

    Let’s Keep Neighbors Out of the Hen House
    Urban agriculture is all the rage. It’s an exciting time, particularly for attorneys who practice and consult in this area, like I do. I’m signed up for two upcoming conferences in the next three weeks alone (one hosted by the Boston Bar Association and another, rescheduled due to a prior snow cancellation, by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture/City Growers/Urban Farming Institute). Both of them will have policy/zoning/land use components. Just a few years ago these conferences would not have been so commonplace, much less well-attended, and certainly not by attorneys.
    My professional interest in urban agriculture is always the zoning and land use legal issues because there are many (though personally, it’s about the excitement and growing support for growing food for oneself and the greater community, just like I do in my own backyard). So when I was reading a fantastic (though now slightly outdated) report just this weekend,“Urban Agriculture: A Sixteen City Survey of Urban Agriculture Practices Across the Country”, written and compiled by Emory Law School’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic in 2011, a disturbing issue naturally jumped out at me: the requirement, in some communities, of acquiring neighbor consent in order to raise backyard poultry (not as the sole criterion, but as one of many).
    First, I am a full proponent of allowing backyard poultry in residential areas, including urban neighborhoods, provided there is a balanced set of regulations that adequately takes into consideration abutting properties (i.e. reasonable setback requirements for coops, proper waste disposal, prohibiting noisy roosters, etc.), the health of the birds (sanitation, proper food storage to prevent unwanted wildlife, etc.) and the birds’ owner’s desire for fresh eggs. If the regulations, application process and enforcement procedures are clear (and not overly burdensome) from the outset, then there should be no reason why anyone cannot have birds in their yard and live among neighbors peacefully.
    This is why I do not support zoning codes and related application procedures that require obtaining neighbor/abutter consent as part of the approval process.* Until reading this report, I didn’t realize that there are some communities that actually have this as a requirement. I have read plenty of poultry-related zoning codes in the past as part of the research that I undertook for an article that I wrote for The Natural Farmer in 2011, and I don’t remember coming across any that had this requirement. But they apparently exist. For example, Annapolis, Maryland, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (featured in the Emory Law School report) and Maplewood, Minnesota each allow backyard poultry provided that the applicant obtain the written consent of their neighbors (in varying iterations).
    When I became aware of this requirement, the first thing that jumped out at me is that such a requirement likely violates the due process clause, primarily because these requirements seemingly give neighbors unfettered (read: standard-less and arbitrary) grounds to refuse consent, with no appeal process for the applicant. Other questions come to mind. What if but one neighbor is a holdout but all others are OK with hens? What if there is a large rental building next door—is it the property owner or the occupants whom should be providing consent? Can a neighbor change his or her mind after the fact (i.e. once birds are living on the property)? If there are two owners on the deed, are both signatures required? What about foreclosed or vacant properties with no approachable owner available? It’s not a far stretch to say that sometimes neighbors just don’t get along or know each other well enough, for any number of reasons, and withholding consent might be tied to something completely arbitrary, and unfairly so to the applicant. It creates a slippery slope, as they say.
    More to the point, I don’t think that these kinds of consent requirements are lawful. And there is some precedent that supports this notion found in other kinds of neighbor consent cases, such as State of Washington ex rel. Seattle Trust Co. v. Roberge, 278 U.S. 116 (1928), and Eubank v. City of Richmond, 226 U.S. 137 (1912). I have not found any reported cases that test backyard poultry-related provisions specifically.
    I get what the cities and towns are trying to do by requiring neighbor consent—and I applaud them for even allowing a use that has some controversy—but they are not taking the right approach, much less one that will withstand legal scrutiny, in my opinion. Instead of the consent requirement, cities and towns should do their job of vetting applicants (with whatever reasonable application standards they see fit), but also require approved applicants to provide some kind of notice to neighbors that there will be poultry living next door. This notice could (and should!) contain specific information about the regulations in place (how many birds are allowed, location of coops, food storage, etc.) and whom to call when violations may exist. Municipalities, of course, must actually enforce the rules and deal with violations accordingly in order for it all to work.
    And let’s not forget the folks who want backyard poultry. They need to do their part too, by reaching out to neighbors and educating them about the ways that poultry and people can mix harmoniously, and then lead by example. Of course, sharing eggs from time to time is not a bad idea either.
    Neighbors will feel empowered if they know that there are rules that must be followed, and that there is someone to call if they are not. Giving prior consent just seems like an unnecessary hoop to jump through, and doesn’t hold much water to begin with.
    *Because if cities and towns are going to do this for chickens, then why not dogs and cats too? What if someone doesn’t want a loud dog barking next to them, pooping all over the place, with runoff flowing directly into gardens and lawns that people have? What if someone doesn’t want cats coming into her yard, killing backyard birds? Shouldn’t they have a way to prevent someone from getting these kinds of animals too? People who oppose backyard chickens generally seem to oppose (or be worried about) noise, smell, and waste disposal. In other words, nuisances. But that’s why there are regulations and standards in place, and consequences for violations. Yes, prohibit people who cannot comply, but otherwise there should be no reason why a neighbor should be able to stop someone proactively from having hens (or dogs and cats!).
  6. NancyBlomquist

    NancyBlomquist New Egg

    Jun 16, 2014
    Maplewood, Minnesota
    Response to your request of reasons why neighbours "permission" should not be required, reviewed if permission is denied and disputed if City Code Enforcement Officers and Administration choose to support the neighbour "apparently", not in support of another families application requesting permit; by being dishonest with applicant as well as abusing their level of position to "hopefully" intimidate applicant to withdraw appl.

    1.) Neighbour denying support to applicant is a "Snow Bird" and is not in Minnesota 6 - 8 months of the year.
    2.) Neighbour denying support to applicant is a financial contributor to members of council and other board members.
    3.) Neighbour denying support to applicant is 150+ feet from applicants property line at corner where coop is, but applicant is being lied to by city who claims the measurement it taken at the corner which does not house the coop and is favorably closer. ("I don't think so")
    4.) Neighbour denying support to applicant is buffered by 50 feet of dense vegetation and mature trees, located on a hill, (incline) blocking any sound, view or otherwise, created inconvenience to them.

  7. DuckLover1029

    DuckLover1029 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 13, 2014
    If you have neighbors I font and on both sides of you and only one says no and the other two say yesyou should be able to have them. After all how many people hold grudges against you?
    1 person likes this.
  8. David1998

    David1998 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2014
    Houston, Texas
    I believe “neighbor permission” originates a common pro-chicken statement when trying to get a law changed: “my neighbor is okay with it”. That should never be translated to a requirement, and probably would not meet equal protection if seriously challenged. Governments would still be allowed to restrict chicken ownership, but not to require neighbor consent.
  9. sford

    sford New Egg

    Apr 17, 2016
    I am going through this process right now in Milwaukee. It's turning out to be one of the most complicated animal-related bureaucratic processes I've dealt with. That's saying a lot as I am an avian veterinarian who has shipped birds, done international travel certificates for birds, and used to practice falconry (which requires state and federal permits, inspections, exams, and oversight). But we've filled out the forms and have all of our chickens in a row... except for two troublesome neighbors. One outright refuses to sign our permission slip because of irrational concerns about smell and a belief that "chickens belong on farms" outside the city. The other neighbor won't answer the door. So, where does that leave us? We bought this house with the intention of having a small backyard flock. Milwaukee is the most tolerant municipality in the area in this regard. We've planned out our yard and coop to comply with distance guidelines from neighboring properties and structures. Why in the heck are we required to have our neighbor's blessings on this but they can get whatever dogs or cats they want, put up fences, add on to their houses, etc, etc, without our approval? It makes zero sense. Hopefully the city has a way to get around stubborn neighbors such as a hearing process or something...
  10. Stc-Gromit

    Stc-Gromit Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 21, 2012
    Stc Michigan
    In St. Charles MI we just debated a proposed ordinance this last week to allow chickens in the village.
    The proposed ordinance from written by the village manager, had requirements that predetermined the ordinance failure:
    1. You had to be 16 yrs or older to be alone in the yard with a chicken.
    2. Coop had to be 20' from property line and 40' from any residence.
    3. You had to have neighbors permission!
    4. The ordinance was written to allow chickens in R-1 and R-1a zoning only. My house which has a large yard and is surrounded by single family dwellings is zoned R-2 light commercial, so I would have to go to the zoning board and ask for a variance. When I asked if they could just reword the proposed ordinance to " properties containing single family dwellings" as long as they can meet all criteria, members of the council (I am a council member also) said too bad!!

    We kicked the proposal over to the planning board (which has two of my fellow council members on it), to come up with an Ordinance. Then we will have to have a meeting for public comment and then a possible vote. Maybe by July??

    I have been fighting to get chickens in St. Charles for 3 years and would love to be able to legaly have chickens in my yard. But I think I would rather let this ordinance fail than tell members of my community that they have to ask their neighbors permission to raise a chicken on their own property!!

    I will find someplace on the BYC to post their proposed ordinance.

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