DeKalb County is suing Steve Miller from Clarkeston for growing too many vegetables on his 2-acres on Cimarron Drive. The County seeks more than $5,000 in fines for code violations for growing too many crops for the zoning and having unpermitted employees on site. Mr. Miller successfully rezoned his property to allow him to continue his fifteen year local farming, but the County wants its money and will face off with Mr. Miller later this month in Court.
Mr. Miller plans to fight the County and his neighbors have rallied around him.
“When he moved here and I found out what he was doing I said, ‘Steve, you’re the best thing that ever happened to Cimarron Drive. And I still say that,” said neighbor Britt Fayssoux.
In a surprise move, the Roswell City Council voted 6 to 2 to ban all roosters and restrict the number of backyard chickens based upon lot size.
Under the new ordinance, no chickens are allowed on residential lots of 1/3 acre or less. Homeowners with 1/3 to 1 acre can keep six chickens. Homeowners with more than 1 acre can have 12 birds per acre, up to a maximum of 36. Chickens can also be kept at schools. Chicken enclosures must be set back at least 50 feet from neighboring property lines. The ordinance does not regulate lots larger than 2 acres.
Chicken keepers seemed surprised by last minute changes.
Under the most recent version on the table, residents could have kept up to 25 birds in some sort of enclosure at single-family homes, no matter what the lot size. People already keeping more than 25 chickens could have obtained a permit for up to 15 more birds. That version was based largely on Atlanta’s law.
Andrew Wordes, who had led the charge to loosen up the city’s backyard chicken law, seemed stunned after the meeting. He said he has about 150 birds, some miniature sized, and didn’t know the proposed ordinance had changed.
“I’ve got .97 acre, so legally I’m allowed six chickens,” Wordes said. “I don’t see how we can have murders happening near city hall and we’re concerned about chickens.”
Martha Mellon will give away her chickens as part of her settlement the City of Johns Creek. Mellon sued the City after it cited her for violating the zoning ordinances by raising poultry within 200 feet of a neighboring property line.
The mayor of Roswell thinks he has seen the chicken scratches on the wall.
“No way we are going to be looking good regardless of what comes out of the court,” [Mayor Jere] Wood said.
Because of this media and community firestorm, Roswell may initiate a rewrite of the city’s zoning ordinance dealing with keeping livestock as pets.
On March 19 the Roswell Municipal Court Judge Maurice Hilliard will decide whether Andrew Wordes can keep his chickens. Mr. Wordes lives off of Alpharetta Street in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Mr. Wordes is charged with violating the city zoning law by keeping chickens in a residential district.
The citation hinges on a section of the city zoning code that defines permitted uses in residential districts. In estate zoning, “livestock raising, not including poultry and hogs,” is allowable, but not in any other residential zoning.
On its face it would seem that would mean that poultry could be permitted because it isn’t included in the prohibition against livestock.
But according to a legal opinion from the assistant city attorney, poultry is defined by the state as livestock.
He goes on to say that “if one were to read the [Roswell zoning] provision to mean that raising chickens and hogs is permitted in all residential zoning districts, then one must alter the plain meaning of ‘livestock’ to take poultry and hogs out of the general definition. This stands the provision on its head.”
Mayor Jere Wood, an attorney by profession, is on Wordes’ side. “Mr. Wordes keeps pet chickens,” Wood wrote in a memo to council and the city administrator. “If his birds are illegal, then every citizen with a canary, parakeet and other pet bird is violating our zoning code.”
Former Governor Roy Barnes represents Mr. Wordes.
UPDATE: The hearing was delayed until mid-May.