Editorial: Surprise: Town Changed Rules On Chickens Without Public Hearing

By / Editorials / الأربعاء, 13 تموز/يوليو 2016 04:00

Managing Editor

I recently wrote an editorial about a request submitted to the Town of Carolina Beach to amend the code of ordinances to eliminate a prohibition on keeping chickens as pets on residential properties.
Before I editorialize on this topic, consider these facts:
- Pelicans are everywhere on our Island. You see them flying over and rejoice at their majestic beauty. They're birds. Fowl.
- Seagulls are abundantly common in our coastal community. They're birds. Fowl.
- Ducks, Geese, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Sparrows, Pipping Plovers, Mocking Birds, Crows, Turkey Vultures, Vultures, Osprey, Hawks (and the list goes on...) are all fowl that live in our Town.
I'm sure I've left out various species commonly seen and accepted as normal in our area, but the list is so vast that I can't accommodate that much space. We also have alligators, turtles, sea turtles, tree frogs, lizards, coyotes, cats, dogs, pigs, and a multitude of other pets that I can't possibly include everything in the list (Wait... hermit crabs at the beach stores!).
The Carolina Beach Town Council should consider a few obvious facts.
A large number of people already keep chickens at their homes. There hasn't been a major health concern, zombie outbreak,  noise complaints or any other code enforcement issue to date.
Chickens produce less waste annually than ducks or geese at the Carolina Beach Lake, seagulls and pelicans on the beach, or anyone's pet dog, cat or pot belly pig on any given day of the year.  I mention the pigs because our ordinance already permits citizens to keep them as pets.
Granted, roosters can be loud,  but most people won't keep them because of that fact. And, the Town could alter their ordinance with some basic rules, of which, could be a limit on the number of roosters a person can keep. Although, loud seagulls will never be subject to that local ordinance. Neither will that loud song bird outside my window at sunrise.
The Council should graciously permit people to keep a reasonable number of chickens as pets.
There's absolutely no concern for public health impacts beyond that of a pet turtle or lizard. No concern about odor beyond the typical neighbors large or small dog. The Council should be open minded and if they have a doubt, call some people that live out in the country to inquire about living conditions with chickens. I can provide some phone numbers of people that currently/or have kept chickens as pets. There are employees of the Town that live outside Town limits that have chickens so there's some in-house knowledge to build upon.
One real problem that came up while writing this editorial was a recent change to the ordinance.
The ordinance was changed in March of this year after Town staff spent 18 months re-codifying the entire code of ordinances but not specifically mentioning all of the changes contained in the several hundred pages of documentation.
After the 2015 re-codification, it appears the ordinance was rewritten to ban people from keeping chickens within Town limits.

You can see the two versions of the ordinance in this week's report titled: Council To Consider Allowing Chickens In Town Limits At August 9th Meeting

It would have been nice if the Town had held a public hearing on this topic. (Probably other topics as well, but I'm still reading through the changes to other ordinances.)
They obviously "interpreted" the old ordinance based on their opinion that former leaders intended to prohibit chickens. For for some reason they ignored an important point; former leaders didn't specifically list chickens among a very specific list of other animals the ordinance did prohibit. And the ordinance had been revisited numerous times over the years due to a previous controversy over a man and his horse and his argument that the ordinance violated his rights.
At no time did those leaders add in the word "chicken" when they had very detailed discussions and every opportunity to add that distinct prohibition.
Prior to March of this year the ordinance titled, " Harboring and keeping of animals and fowl"  prohibited "goats, sheep, pigs, hogs, cows, bulls, horses, mules, ostriches or other similar types of large size animals and fowl or other reptiles or snakes poisonous or nonpoisonous."
Not chickens. They're not "large size animals and fowl." Pretty clear definition.
But the previous ordinance did allow "any animal and/or fowl which can be kept or harbored within or outside a residential dwelling and which requires reasonable and minimal attention and/or maintenance and shall include generally accepted animals and fowl such as dogs, cats, caged birds, rabbits, miniature Vietnamese pigs, gerbils, hamsters, ferrets, and other animals and fowl of similar size and type and generally accepted reptiles such turtles and small nonpoisonous lizards."
The new ordinance is titled, "Harboring and keeping of animals and fowl; term defined" and adds "chickens, ducks or geese" to the list.
I'm unable to find a record of a public hearing on that change. Wonder what else they changed without a public hearing?
They did leave a section in the ordinance that states in part, "All areas of keeping and harboring of animals and fowl, whether within a residential dwelling or outside, within the property limits of the residential dwelling, shall be kept clean and sanitary at all times."
So I can keep 100 pigeons outside my house as long as I keep the area clean and sanitary but I can't have two or three hens? Of course they overlooked the fact that the previous ordinance relied on this other ordinance that clearly was intended to permit chickens.
Well cock a doodle doo...


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