Monday, January 3, 2011

Three Proposals CLUCK is NOT Supporting

The proposed revisions to the City Code making it possible for people to once again have a few chickens have gone through several changes, and CLUCK, in response to concerns raised, has proposed additional changes dealing with odor, setbacks, sale of eggs and other topics.

But three of the suggestions that have surfaced are not acceptable. Here they are and here's why:

REFERENDUM: Rumor has it at least one group says they will be calling for a referendum on chickens. Really? We get to vote on small fluffy pets, but not the FPL 30 year contract? Not on ball stadium funding, but birds?

It has been hard enough for an all-volunteer citizen group to mount an ambitious campaign to inform decision-makers, citizen leaders and the media. But, aside from the cost of a referendum itself, asking a citizen group to find the funds to mount a political campaign (for OR against) while we are paying Commissioners to analyze the situation and make decisions for us is a misallocation of resources.

This is a decision the Commission is completely capable of making on its own. CLUCK has been working on this for year and a half and that should be long enough for the City to make a decision without further delay and major expense. 

NEIGHBOR VETO Some are calling for a provision that would require neighbor approval before you could have chickens. Really? So your neighbor could put up a fence or cut down a tree that shades your lot without your approval, but they get to decide what pets you can have? Or someone can come into your neighborhood and, if they get a rezoning, completely change the land use next to you and you don't get a veto, but if they wanted to have a few hens, you could nix that? Really?

If the City wants to explore neighbor veto, a major policy change, they should make that a proposal and then we can argue about what is in and what is out. But any major shift in doctrine of this magnitude should be fully discussed and not hidden in a piece of animal regulation.

RIGHT OF INSPECTION  Code enforcement is hampered by the fact that, at least on homesteaded properties, inspectors don't have the right to come look all around your property. If you neighbor has four rusting junker cars in the backyard behind a fence, code enforcement may not be able to get in there to confirm and take action. Could be, but this is the status of the law today and making adjustments in private property rights (or way or the other) demands careful consideration.

Now some think we should include a right of inspection for chickens. Again this is a major policy issue that involves private property rights. If the City wants to marshal some attorneys to figure out how to broaden inspectors ability to look around -- fine, let's have that discussion. But trying to insert this significant change in chicken language is not the way to go about it and could lead to bizarre situations like the right check on chickens, but not a junkyard.

Bottom Line: CLUCK has listened to all the testimony, read all the letters to the Editor, and paid attention at neighborhood meetings. As a result CLUCK has proposed numerous changes in response to concerns. But CLUCK is not interested in escalating this relatively simple matter to referendum status.

And if the City engages in a broad community discussion about allowing neighbors to veto your activities or changing your rights relative to code enforcement and the results of that broad policy shift affect backyard chickens, so be it.  But using a an animal ordinance as a backdoor assault on property rights is not appropriate, and needs to be labeled as such.

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