Tonight - board of zoning appeals meeting on my chickens in OHIO

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by ohiogardener2011, Jun 16, 2011.

  1. ohiogardener2011

    ohiogardener2011 Out Of The Brooder

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    May 24, 2011
    Well, tonight's the night of my chicken hearing with the board of zoning appeals in Barberton, OH. Wish me luck. I received a warning ticket in mid/late May and have kept my birds under a zoning variance permit since then.

    The local law says:
    Development Code Chapter 1140.01 (4) states: “Only ‘Domestic Animals’ as defined in Chapter 1360 shall be permitted on Residential Single-Family, Two-Family and Multi-Family lots, Zoning Code District, RA, RS, RT and RM. (Ord. 157-2003. Passed 12-15-03.)”

    Chapter 1360.02 (58) defines a “Domestic Animal” as: “A cat, dog, or other small animal of the types commonly maintained as household pets.”


    Chickens aren't mentioned, and I bet most everyone here on this forum would consider them a relatively common household pet. I think I have a good chance.
     
  2. luvinmychickens

    luvinmychickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 15, 2011
    Ohio
    You might have a good chance. A lot of people own chickens.
     
  3. kesali

    kesali Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 27, 2011
    far northern Wisconsin
    "...or other small animal of the types commonly maintained as household pets.” is pretty vague and you should also use this at the meeting. There are many chickens kept as household pets in this country. For instance, how about the large number that are purchased and taken home around Easter? If they want to follow this vague rule, then you can mention that ferrets, pot-bellied pigs, snakes, tarantulas, and other such "uncommon" pets are also against the law and should be removed from any place that has them. The question here is who defines "common" and exactly what is the meaning of this word as used here?
     
  4. ohiogardener2011

    ohiogardener2011 Out Of The Brooder

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    May 24, 2011
    Thanks for your words of support. Here are my arguments regarding the specific ordinance. I have a more thorough argument that is too long to post here. Note that my arguments are footnoted with references. I even got a plug in for this web site, since its membership numbers were mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article recently.

    - Neither of these ordinances mentions chickens or poultry. i.e. The laws are vague and don’t explicitly prohibit chickens.

    - BDC permits domestic animals (defined as a small animal commonly maintained as household pets).

    - Chickens are domestic animals by definition. Classified as Gallus gallus domesticus, chickens are a domestic animal species. [1]

    - Chickens are kept as pets by thousands of Americans. I don’t have specific ownership numbers. But just one web site devoted to keeping pet chickens, www.backyardchickens.com, has more than 60,000 members. [2] A sampling of other recent popular media references to chickens kept as pets are also provided. [3 - 15] While “common” is hard to define, clearly many people do keep pet chickens. It is not an uncommon practice.

    - If one liberally interprets the BDC as prohibiting keeping chickens as pets, that would also allow the City to arbitrarily ban other animals that many residents consider pets, simply because they aren’t referenced by name in the code – for example: snakes; rabbits; parrots; guinea pigs; turtles; pot-bellied pigs; chinchillas; hamsters; rats; gerbils; fish. Interpretation of codified ordinances should be consistent, not arbitrary, so as to protect the rights of all residents and pet owners.
     
  5. ohiogardener2011

    ohiogardener2011 Out Of The Brooder

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    May 24, 2011
    Well, the zoning board voted unanimously, 6-0, against me keeping my chickens. Or, more formally, they voted to deny my appeal of their interpretation of the city's domestic animal law. The vote is not formal until next month's meeting when minutes are approved, at which point I have the right to appeal again. Which I will be doing.

    The son of my neighbor spoke against me owning chickens, not citing any specific reasons, other than they are too close to his mother's property.

    I spoke to him after the meeting and explained that this isn't personal and that I'll be happy to move my chickens back from the property line while appealing. Apparently the city has a couple rules I missed because they also didn't reference poultry/chickens. Animals may be kept no closer than 10 feet from a property line, and no more than 4 animals can live at one property - otherwise you are classified as a kennel. So my 5 chickens need to become 4 chickens very quickly.

    I'm still confused how one could interpret our law about domestic animals as excluding domestic chickens. Chickens ARE common household pets and I demonstrated this with more than a dozen newspaper articles and links to dozens of websites. They aren't mentioned by name in the ordinance. I think a court would rule in my favor.

    This should be interesting as long as everyone remains good natured. The zoning board was overall very friendly and I received a few compliments on my speech. My goal now is to get the city's law director to work to rewrite our laws in such a way that is favorable to at least limited ownership of chickens.
     
  6. CopperCT

    CopperCT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 12, 2011
    I'm in the same boat...go for it!!! I will be making almost the same argument here in CT. Our chickens are pets, pets , PETS and very common. As long as all reasonable measures have been taken to keep the nuisance factor to a minimum.... what's the problem????
     
  7. ohiogardener2011

    ohiogardener2011 Out Of The Brooder

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    May 24, 2011
    That's what's confusing me, Copper. If the law doesn't specifically prohibit something, and you can demonstrate that your pet could reasonable conform to the law, how can a zoning commission or town council tell you "no" simply because they feel like it? Laws aren't arbitrary things.

    One of the zoning board remarked that if he took a poll of people walking down the street, most of them would not consider chickens to be pets. But that's not what our law states. Our law doesn't say that a domestic animal is a domestic animal if a poll is taken and most people say it is. The law says a domestic animal is a small animal commonly kept as a household pet. I think when you can show that tens of thousands of people keep chickens as pets, it makes them common.

    I'm going to move my chicken run further into my yard this weekend. That won't be easy, since I've already cut an entrance door in my garage and put up the pen. But I'll do it to try to be a good neighbor.
     
  8. CopperCT

    CopperCT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 12, 2011
    Quote:I cannot speak for your town but in mine the zoning regs have a specific definition of what is poultry. The regs are then silent about whether you can have them or not in my zone. As it has been explained to me a couple of times....if something is not specifically permitted then it is not permitted. The zoning officer said to me that the regs don't say elephants are permitted to be kept in my zone but that doesn't mean I can keep an elephant at my house and therefore chickens are not allowed either because they are not mentioned. I countered by saying the regs don't specifically say I can keep a dog or cat either so does that mean they are prohibited too? He backed off on that one. So for me their enforcement of the regs (law) is capricious...they chose to enforce what they want to enforce and let everything else go. Their dilemma was clear during a recent planning meeting where there was a public hearing about approving a new reg to keep poultry. The Town planner said straight out at the public hearing that although they currently used "if it doesn't say it's permitted, then it's not permitted" "rule", it was too open to interpretation and having a rule with restrictions was more enforceable. That's tells me there is wiggle room there. We lost our quest to get a rule on allowing keeping poultry last week but the P&Z left the door open to introduce a new one and I hope to get on the committee to get that created sooner rather then later.

    Good luck with your fight. [​IMG] It sounds to me like you have some wiggle room too but if you have a board who is dead set against your cause...I hate to say it but you'll have a big uphill battle to keep your chicks...especially if your neighbor is complaining...mine is too. It depends how your appeal board has ruled before when there are no specific guidelines...it sets a precedent that is very difficult to overcome. I'm there with you...I'm weighing my options but I'm pretty sure I won't win without getting the rules themselves changed so they are crystal clear. So for now that's where I'm focusing my time and energy.

    Best of luck to you...let us know how it goes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  9. NightingaleJen

    NightingaleJen Out Of The Brooder

    Good luck to both of you. [​IMG] How frustrating. What about noting all the good things chickens do—eat bugs & ticks, provide a very safe fertilizer that doesn't hurt the groundwater system, eat table scraps that the city would otherwise have to haul, etc. etc?
     
  10. CopperCT

    CopperCT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 12, 2011
    Quote:Thanks NightingaleJen...the support on this forum helps alot. I did submit about 10 pages of positives about chickens including bug control, fertilizer, and lessening the burden on trash hauling in our hearing a couple weeks ago as well as many others. The problem is the Health dept was opposed because they didn't want to police the keeping of chickens...they felt it would overburden their dept and that swayed the P&Z board more than the fact there were twice as many residents in favor as opposed. Hopefully in the next round we can win their approval...but in the meantime...you are right...it is frustrating. We'll just keep trying I guess. [​IMG]
     

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