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Letter to the Editor: Zoning Ordinances Should Not Ban the Right to Grow

A Northeast Cobb man says that local government should not have the ability to strip us of rights as they do when zoning ordinances ban the Right to Grow.

The United States Constitution as well as the Georgia Constitution lists the rights of citizens. Among the rights listed are the right of personal security, personal liberty, and the right of private property. The definition of 'personal security' is 'The legal and uninterrupted enjoyment by a man of his life, his body, his health and his reputation.' Furthermore, the definition of 'private property' is 'The tangible and intangible things owned by individuals'. Dr. Mark Cooray says, "Personal liberty means not only freedom from unlawful physical restraint or harm, but also freedom from arbitrary interference with one's privacy and lawful belongings." Local governments should not have the ability to strip us of these rights as they do when local zoning ordinances ban us from the Right to Grow.

For a number of reasons, people are returning to their agrarian roots and growing their own food. Some people are doing it because they want to feed their families healthy food. Some people are concerned about genetically altered or virally tainted food. Some people are affected by the harsh economic times. Some people are doing it just because they want the feeling of accomplishment. Whatever the reasons, The Sustainable Food Movement is moving through this country stronger than ever. However, some local municipalities are unhappy about this.

Creative gardening techniques can clash with neighbor's landscaping ideals. Some people think that chickens and goats cannot be pets but are signs of lower social status and poverty. Forsyth County has deemed honeybees ‘livestock’ and banned them from backyards. Marietta says you have to have five acres for a chicken that the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service says only needs around four square feet. 'Not In My Back Yard' (NIMBY) people like these are more concerned about "What about the property value of the neighborhood?" than the people that live in the neighborhood. They would rather ban such activities outright, lest take a chance that a few people could violate local nuisance or health laws. This is akin to outlawing dogs because some people cannot keep their dog on a leash or keep it from defecating in their neighbor’s lawn. If we outlawed banks, we would reduce the number of bank robberies. But we are not talking about dogs or banks; we are talking about people’s inalienable rights, which among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In 2011, introduced House Bill 2 into the Georgia General Assembly. It reads: "No county, municipality, consolidated government, or local government authority shall prohibit or require any permit for the growing or raising of food crops or chickens, rabbits, or milk goats in home gardens, coops, or pens on private residential property so long as such food crops or animals or the products thereof are used for human consumption by the occupant of such property and members of his or her household and not for commercial purposes." It goes on to state: "This Code section shall not prohibit or impair:

 (1) The authority of a local governmental entity to abate a public nuisance;

 (2) The authority of a local governmental entity to regulate or restrict the slaughter of goats;

 (3) Any cause of action brought by a private citizen to abate a private nuisance under Code Section 41-2-4; or

 (4) Any private covenant or other private agreement restricting the use of real property."

Franklin argued that his bill isn’t the state overriding local control, its returning control to the most local unit: the family. "The whole concept is no level of state government should ever tell a person that they are prohibited from feeding their family. Chickens for the eggs and the meat, rabbits for the meat, goats for the milk and you can feed your family." He passed on before he could see this bill through.

In 2012, this bill is still alive, but it needs help. We, the people of Georgia need to stand up and say, “Enough!” Our legislators need to know that we still value our rights and we want them back. We are up against some powerful lobbyists, who represent the cities and the municipalities. They say, “This law would tie the hands of local governments to protect the other property owners in that residential district.” They know that this is not true. The law specifically retains the ability of local governments to enact and enforce nuisance and sanitary laws. It restores sanity to our communities that have been overrun with superficial NIMBY’s and control-freak 'Republicans in Name Only' (RINOs). We have plenty of sheep in our neighborhoods; now let’s get the rights to own gardens, chickens, and goats back.

Joseph Pond

www.gafoodrights.org

Marlene Mitchell January 20, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I hope this passes. I have raised chickens and have had a vegetable garden. It's about time people really read the ingredients of the food they buy then they will have a better understanding of why we have so many health problems.
Jody Roya DiPasquale January 21, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Yes! we need our right to Liberty back! I live in Auburn, Barrow County, and both Winder & Auburn are driving around on Code Enforcement Patrol, spying in back yards. They are "Cleaning up" the riff-raff. They are proudly writing articles in Newspapers bragging about taking peoples goats and hens away. These are citizens like myself, who are not offending any neighbors. Please go to www.gafoodrights.org sign the guestbook and send an e-mail to Rep. Tom McCall. there is a link on the site so its easy to do! Let's stand up for our personal rights!
Alex Olvido January 30, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Other readers might wonder why some local codes have seemingly arbitrary minimal acreage requirements for owning chickens and other "farm" animals. I suspect that these local codes date back to a time (post-WWII) when people sought suburban refuge from noisy and stinky commercial broiler and egg farms. In short, these local laws were intended to discourage people from erecting giant broiler houses or egg production facilities in their suburban backyards. On that note, the backyard poultry ownership movement and other sustainable food initiatives is in complete agreement with the *original intent* of those local laws: I don't want my neighbors running some industrial food plant in my relatively peaceful neighborhood, nor do I have any inclination to alienate my neighbors with any of my backyard chickens (only 12 hens, all pets, none for slaughter). For sure, I prefer NOT to have my food to come from large, commercial facilities for many reasons, including personal health, environmental safety, and knowledge of and appreciation for my foods' origins. So, Mr. Pond's call for updated legislation is not so much an idealogical argument (though, at first glance, it might seem that way), but rather a very practical and very reasonable proposal for local city and county commissioners to stop acting arbitrarily in denying their family members, friends, and neighbors the opportunity for a higher quality of home life. Please support Georgia Food Rights.

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