Chicken ordinance gets Roswell consideration

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ROSWELL – The feathers were flying at the Nov. 9 Roswell City Council meeting as chicken fanciers and neighbors tired of roosters at dawn pleaded their cases to the City Council.

The council was taking comment on a new ordinance to restrict fowl ownership in the city. It comes a year after Municipal Court Judge Maurice Hilliard struck down as too vague the city’s ordinance restricting the ownership of chickens in residential areas.

An outpouring of sympathy for chickens as pets (and it turns out there are quite a number of chicken pet owners) has led to a carefully crafted ordinance that tries to strike a balance appeasing pet owners and their neighbors.

The new ordinance passed in its first reading 6-0, but with instructions for staff to tweak some of the sore spots. The council agreed to limit the number of larger birds to 25, but said some consideration must be given to smaller breeds.

That concession was won when Andrew Wordes, the “Chicken Man” whose pets got this all started, showed the council his miniature button quail, which fit easily into the palm of his hand. They can escape their box quite easily, too, as was demonstrated when a couple got loose.

Wordes quickly gathered the little critters up and said it only demonstrated how little trouble and concern they were to neighbors. Other highlights include:

• Neighbors worried about the noise and smell won some concessions, as well. The keeping of geese and turkeys was prohibited in the ordinance.

• Recognizing the various breeds and sizes of birds made the ordinance’s provisions regarding structures troublesome, council asked for more flexibility there.

• Roosters are allowed, but preventing their becoming a nuisance will require more “tweaking.”

• Ownership of up to 25 poultry, the same number as Atlanta’s law, are allowed.

• No commercial purposes for poultry is allowed, although the local sale of eggs is alright.

Roswell Planning and Zoning Director Brad Townsend said he is still unclear about instructions for “tweaking the grandfathering.” That could refer to people who currently have more than 25 birds, or keep several types of birds.

Residents such as Keith Badalamente and Ted Gum just want to ensure their rights as homeowners are not compromised by 4 a.m. rooster crowing or too many chickens affecting the quality of life.

“Cats make great pets, but if someone was keeping 40 cats, the ASPCA would be out there in a minute,” Badalamente said.

“It is the same with 40 chickens. As the neighbor next door, I can tell you the roosters are loud. I don’t sleep with my window open anymore.”

Gum said homeowners should not have to look at the adjacent backyard rendered “deplorable” by free ranging fowl.

“We have $500,000 homes in the neighborhood with a neighbor raising turkeys and pheasants on a lot that is just too small,” Gum said.

But most of the residents spoke in favor of the birds. Charlie Schneider, television’s Chicken Whisperer, said most of the concerns about chickens can be covered with the noise and nuisance ordinances already on the books.

“What do you do about a dog barking at night? It is the same thing with the rooster. A nuisance is a nuisance,” Schneider said. “You don’t need a special ordinance for each

species.”

The final reading of the “tweaked” ordinance will be at the Dec. 14 meeting.

In other city business:

• City Council voted unanimously to give a 1-acre former daycare center at Ga. 92 and King Road Small Tract Status under the Parkway Village District Overlay. Although it has always been a 7,200-square-foot daycare center, and the prospective tenant will be a daycare center, the zoning allowing the 20-year business had lapsed because three months had passed without a new tenant in the building.

After some changes to the site plan and an agreement to decorate the King Road frontage with a white equestrian fence, the property was rezoned for a daycare center. The key was the city’s willingness to forgo 12 feet of right-of-way normally given for frontage landscaping, which would have taken at least five parking spaces in front.

The owner said those spaces were crucial to the tenant and would have been a deal-killer. The rezoning was approved 6-0.

Roswell