Permits and Property Rights

The Cobb County Board is reviewing options concerning poultry on less than two acres. Permits are not the best option.

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.

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East Cobber January 25, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Let Cobb county Animal Control handle any potential nuisance violations that might arise from owning a few backyard hens. we have rules/laws in place for animal noise, odor, unsightliness - enforce them if the need arises. There is absolutely no need for permits, paper work, fees, or extensive government bureaucracy. What do the cities of Smyrna, Decatur, Atlanta, New York, Los Angel's, etc know that Cobb doesn't? This is absurd that i can pick up 5 pound puppies without notifying the county govt, but i need their permission to have a few backyard hens. Wait, better not give them any other ideas on how to regulate and collect more money. Cobb Commissioners and planning, lighten up!
Ken Cook January 26, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Ridiculous this is even an argument. I believe it is opposed only by Tim Lee and JoAnn Birrell. We'll see where this goes but I can tell you if this isn't cured satisfactorily now it actually could lead to a lot more activity from the community. In the end this is not about a chicken and an egg. This is 100% about government infringement into a right which belongs to the home owner. Time for this law, which did it's job in running the farmer out of East Cobb, to be repaired. This is 2013 - people are very health conscious and want to be self-sufficient. Mr. Lee and Mrs. Birrell either you can lead us back to the future or get out of the way.
Marlene Mitchell January 30, 2013 at 03:56 PM
I have raised chickens before, yes in Cobb County, and there will always be that one neighbor. I had about 1.82 acres & also had a rooster that occasionally crowed. My neighbor didn't like to hear the rooster crowing, at all. Time was not the issue. Got to know the guy a little better and found out that what his neighbors were telling me was true & not just to make me feel better...he was a control freak & a jerk. Sad when one out of so many can try & make your life very frustrating. I do think people should be able to have a few chickens in their own back yard. I think there should be a limit as to how many you are allowed to keep because there will be an issue of odor if not properly taken care of & it is not a good odor. Chicken coops are fairly easy to construct and you can also make them on wheels to move them around your property. Do a Youtube.com search or just Google "Chicken coop construction" . I am on the side of being able to own a few hens. I'm tired of the government telling me I can't do things on my own property or if they do "allow" it I have to pay fees, taxes or permits. I'm already paying taxes on my property!!!
Marlene Mitchell January 30, 2013 at 04:05 PM
In Seattle you have to have a permit to own and use a rain barrel. Is Cobb County far behind? Being taxed on all your "hard" surfaces is coming. Patio, roof, driveway, side walks. The run off is said to over tax the waste water treatment systems. But people on Septic and with no street gutters that flow into the wastewater treatment system will be taxed also. The big question is if we really own anything any more or do we just rent it from the government.
Ron McClellan February 22, 2013 at 09:18 AM
Hey Ken, I have been telling Joseph it's an issue of rights (not just property rights either) for going on a few years now. He does seem to be finally conceding this reality a bit. Unfortunately, the Cobb Chicken Alliance is more about groveling than making demands and backing those demands up with succinct political action. Both Joseph and Andy Schneider (The Chicken Whisperer)seem to think anyone who understands that this is actually a Constitutional issue relative to both Property rights and general liberty are "waving the Constitution around" and "stomping up and down" . . .to use two terms Andy has used to describe anyone who doesn't politely beg officials for the privilege of keeping chickens. For anyone who isnt into groveling, if things don't go well in Cobb on February 26, you're welcome to join "Georgia Chickens" on Facebook. As citizens, we CAN actually force these officials to change laws and ordinances, particularly on a local level, even if it's against their will. But ya don't do it by groveling and settling for unnecessary and unreasonable restrictions and pretending "it's a start" as the Chicken Whisperer naively calls it. It ain't "a start"it's a defeat with a door prize.


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