The Cobb County Planning Commission has proposed to the Board of Commissioners the use of a Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) to allow poultry on less than two acres, as opposed to simply governing it as any other pets are governed. This would require a substantial fee, a long process, and a lot of bureaucracy.
The East Cobb Civic Association has taken the position that the SLUP would be the wrong avenue; that a variance would be the proper way. The variance process is very similar to the SLUP -- it is long, bureaucratic, cheaper, and in some ways, more restrictive. A variance cannot be granted for more than 25 percent of the minimum lot size. That means that people with less 1.5 acres could not be granted one.
On June 29, 2011, I was cited for having poultry on less than two acres. I had ten days to 1) remove the birds, 2) take the County to court, or 3) file for a Variance. On July 15th, I applied for a Variance. I paid an application fee of $150, a sign fee of $18 for two sign, and a $100 deposit for the signs. Luckily for me, I had a survey done when I bought my house, so I did not have to pay to supply a survey with the application as required. My hearing date was set for September 14th. In order to get a variance, it must be approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals and then by the Board of Commissioners.
Unbeknownst to me, my commissioner sent unsolicited copies of my emails to the Board of Commissioners concerning my variance to the East Cobb Civic Association. In turn, the ECCA sent out emails to the subdivisions in my neighbor encouraging them to 1) write to the BZA and the BOC to deny my variance, 2) attend the hearing and object, and 3) gather signed petitions if unable to attend the hearing. When I discovered this after the fact, the commissioner told me that this was common procedure for the commissioners.
At the hearing, I was given ten minutes to make my case, as was the opposition. The president of the ECCA was there to state their objections to the Variance, as was the neighbor who turned me in for having the birds in the first place. In my neighbor's original complaint to our commissioner, she complained that the birds would ruin her property value. At the hearing, she presented doctored photos of my yard, and lied to BZA, telling them that the noise and stench of the my birds kept her from enjoying her back deck.
My variance was denied for several reasons, none having to do with the nefarious actions of my neighbor or the ECCA. A variance cannot be granted by the BZA if the request exceeds 25% of the affected Code. Two acres are required for poultry; I only have a half acres- therefore it would require forgiving 75% of the affected Code. Also, the BZA, as a matter of practice, does not issue variances concerning animals as they feel that it would violate the nature of the Code. As they see it, the Code should be changed to allow animals. Basically, I was doomed from the start -- I never had a chance.
Simply put, the permit process is stacked against the applicant. It implies that others know better than you about what you can do with your property. Traditional principles of property rights include control of the use of the property, provided that the use does not unreasonably interfere with the property rights of another private party (the right of quiet enjoyment).
There are time-tested ordinances in place to address any interference. Property owners do not need excessive bureaucracy that infers impropriety to use their property as they see fit.
Cobb County has no limits on the number of pets that a person can own, provided they can take reasonable care of them and do not violate the ordinances in Chapter Ten of the Code. There are no permits required, and no hearings to go thru. The same should be true for poultry. Poultry should be treated the same as any other pets, not treated like livestock, as it is not the same thing.