Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Backyard Chickens fail at Dunwoody City Council by a 4 to 3 vote.

This evening the Dunwoody City Council held a public hearing on the possibility of allowing the residents to keep six chickens in their backyards and then it was voted down by a 4 to 3 vote with Mayor Wright, Councilmen Taylor, Shortal and Ross voting against the measure and Council members Bonser, Wittenstein and Heneghan voting in favor.

Once the two friendly amendments, making the ordinance even more restrictive failed by a four to three vote, the final outcome was pretty much set in place with there being nothing more I could say that could sway my fellow council members decision.  Therefore I decided to say nothing, no grand standing, no saying things that would have no effect on the final outcome, instead I let the inevitable happen and allowed those who voted to deny backyard chickens to explain their vote.  I personally feel this outcome was a mistake but I respect my fellow council members who voted against the measure since the community voiced opinions on both side of the issue.

In reviewing the video recording, my heart felt like I should have fought harder on the matter, but my head still tells me that it wouldn't have mattered.  The chicken owners had already presented the facts by technical experts, presented the circumstances by inviting council members and our children to visit their coops and laid out everything they had to offer; whereby at that point I felt there wasn't much else for me to say.

Below are links to my video.

Full meeting video.

Chicken presentation, vote and council comments on vote.

At the very end of the meeting we were discussing future road improvements and I brought up the needed repairs on N. Peachtree Rd near Chesnut Elem which I think the residents in the area would like to hear.

Then Mr. Bob Lundsten who serves on the Dunwoody Planning Commission,  presented a closing public comment whereby he chastised the council, pointed out some inconsistencies in council members reasoning and then informed the council that he has filed an open records request for every e-mail regarding chickens either sent or received by the council members dating back to January 1st.


Finally Mr. Rick Callihan does better job in setting the scene of the chicken vote then I can, therefore please read his recap as it appears to be very accurate, right down to the part where I didn't have much to say.



themommy said...

I know it will come as some surprise to the stick in muds like Gerri Penn and Danny Ross and Ken Wright, but most of Dunwody could care less about chickens. GASP.

If they would talk to regular folks, and not just the people that agree with them, they would find a tremendous amount of neutrality on this issue.

They could have done a survey, but they didn't. They presume that because DHA oldtimers feel a certain way, that reflects the city as a whole. It probably doesn't and hopefully this will spur a new type of person to get involved. It is time to lower the average age on not only the council, but all the advisory groups.

And most of all, shame on Robert Wittenstein for not thinking this through and for not better measuring the pulse of the council before introducing such a piece of needless legislation.

knitternall said...

The survey you suggest, themommy, would have shown that many, many people in Dunwoody actually DO care about chickens and have watched this legislation with great hopes. Perhaps those in favor were just a little too nice about expressing their wishes to the Council.

A survey would have been a fine idea.

I predict this issue will come up again. And again.

Bob said...

I have watched the video of my little talk last night to the City Council and I would not characterize what I did as "chastising the Council"
What I did was express disappointment with the final vote.
The code change was subject to no less than 4 public meetings where the citizen opposition was limited to the same three or four people who spoke against chicken based on false information and memories of past childhoods.
At least two of the councilmen never really listened to the facts being presented because they made their feeling known from the minute the mention of chickens ever came up in front of the Council. So the disappointment was that there was never a chance for the facts to be considered, because their minds were made up before the fact.
I was also disappointed that the "opposition" was by way of "hundreds" of emails against, while every public blog and the letters to the editor showed none of this public disdain. To hear some of the Council members speak you would be lead to believe that everyone was against chickens.
Contrary to the opinions of several council members, private property rights are protected by the United States Constitution and to limit or restrict the use of personal property is considered a taking, but we will let the lawyers fight that out in the future.
I requested the open records because with speaking to other Councilmen, I feel the "pro chicken" folks need to see where the opposition came from and not let it slide under the generalization of "hundreds of emails against".
So you were not chastised, the Council was questioned. I as a citizen was not satisfied with the reasons that were publically expressed by those opposed. I was disappointed that the throngs of opposition chose not to publically participate in the debate and hid behind the anonymity of emails and general misinformation.
I close with the reminder that we are living in the Dunwoody of 2010, a far different place than the Dunwoody of the 70's and 80's. New generations are going to expect new and progressive ideas. We are a city so people can have a say in government, not to be dictated to by the Dunwoody of old.
I repect all the work that each councilmen puts in to this job. I know you do not do it for the money. But when I think you are wrong as a council, I will be the first to tell you so. Not in a private email, but with the courage of my convictions. Standing up with a mike in my hand and telling you all how I feel.

I have never been shy and do not ever intend to be.

Bob Lundsten

Dunwoody Mom said...

So, I voted for the City of Dunwoody believing that our own government would be more receptive to its citizens desires and needs. Last night's vote sure took that naive thought out of my head.

Mark said...

I felt your heavy heart last night, John. I was very disappointed in the outcome and hope the issue can be remedied before folks are compelled to move or give up their coops. I had originally shown up only to show support to a neighbor presenting you with a sidewalk petition, but seeing the crush of chicken enthusiasts, I had to stick around in the hope that they might prevail.

Bob Fiscella said...

I, for one, didn't have a dog in the chicken fight (so to speak). One way or the other, it's highly unlikely the vote personally affects me.
With that said, thank you for going into the issue with both eyes open. Thanks for taking the time to try to understand each side, and then, and only then, make a determination. I'm not so sure every member of the council can look themselves in the eye and say the same.

GaryRayBetz said...

I thought something that one of my favorite obscure philosophers, George Bancroft (US historian and former Secretary of the Department of the Navy) once wrote might be fitting here, "The fears of one class of men, should not dictate the rights of another."

I know that's kind of a profound statement just for a backyard chicken issue, but you start with chickens and then next it'll be restrictions on parking on the street at night, how many cars I can have in my driveway, to not allowing the front-yard toys of our children to be viewed from the street.

Eighteen years ago, I purchased a home in Dunwoody because a fairly attractive red-headed woman, who was picking up her children from the DNDC, told me how great the public schools and friendly the neighbors are in Dunwoody. And through the years both her pronouncements proved to be true.

But what mostly sold me on the Dunwoody neighborhood was that I could purchase a home without the tyrannical restrictions that a covenant would yoke me with.

We cannot allow the City of Dunwoody to become a proxy homeowners entity that enacts covenant category rulings!

happy said...

I thought Dunwoody WANTED sustainability, but when the city got a chance to move in that direction – you voted no. I thought personal property rights were important in Dunwoody – you voted no. When all the communities around us welcomed chickens – you voted no. I hope if any of you who voted no run again, that the people of Dunwoody will remember to vote no.

Anonymous said...

Hey Folks,

Danny Ross replied to an e-mail that was sent to him in support of backyard chickens and made this quote...

"The Constitution guarantees us the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, not Property."

Can you believe this guy?

I'm really looking forward to the results of the Open Records Request!

Chicken Whisperer

silverlining said...

I think the city council got it wrong. However, I read Mr. Ross' email and you are misrepresenting what he said. That may have been what you "heard", but that is not what he said.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Actually, the 14th Amendment does say that the state shall not deprive a person oflife, liberty or property..., so hopefully Mr. Ross' email was incorrect. I would hate to believe that one of our leaders is not familiar with the U.S. Constitution.

Kcaj said...

Ummm, it's been awhile since H.S. Civics; but isn't "Life, Liberty... Happiness" the legally irrelevant (but Efin witchin) Declaration of Independence? Looks like we've identified the mental giant in a room full of small people! G-D Help Us All.

Anonymous said...

Sorry silverlining, but you are very wrong. My neighbor/friend sent me the e-mail that was sent to him by Danny Ross and we read it word for word on my national radio show. I will post the exact e-mail as soon as I find it and you will see what was said word for word. In fact, I copied and pasted the quote in a previous post listed above as it was stated in the e-mail.

Now that the preliminary results are in from the open records request, I wonder what Danny Ross has to say about it. I believe Danny said in the final meeting in front of many people that he received "hundreds" of e-mails from his constituents against keeping chickens. (I'm sure we can get this quote from the transcripts.) This has now been proven false. In fact, preliminary reports show the exact opposite. More e-mails (three times as many) were sent in favor of keeping chickens!

I can't wait until the final results of the open records request is published! I want to hear Danny's explanation.

Chicken Whisperer

Cerebration said...

Sorry to interrupt—I don't have a "chicken" in this fight—but I just have to say The Chicken Whisperer caught my eye as the funniest blogging moniker ever! I wish I could give you a ribbon for that!

(BtW - I'm all for the chickens! Of course, I'm a farm girl from Ohio!)

Anonymous said...

OK, here we go...

First, thank you Cerebration for your nice comments!

Second, here is the complete e-mail that was sent to my neighbor, friend, and supporter of backyard chickens, Phil Wolf from Danny Ross.

Dear Phil-

Thank you for your e-mail regarding backyard chicken raising in Dunwoody. Just one correction, the Constitution provides the people the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, not property. During the past few weeks I have received hundreds of e-mails, telephone calls and personal communications on this matter. I cannot support this amendment to allow chickens in our community.

-Danny Ross

Looks pretty clear to me silverlining. Care to change your comments?

Soon, the final report of the open records request will be released and it will show what Danny Ross did not receive "hundreds of e-mails" form people against backyard chickens as he allegedly stated during the council meeting the night he voted against backyard chickens, or should I say voted against the constitution and property rights.

We will be talking about this on my national radio show today if you would like to tune in!

"Power to the Poultry"

Chicken Whisperer

silverlining said...

CW, Thank you for publishing the e-mail. This way, everyone can decide for themselves what Mr. Ross was saying in his e-mail. I stand by my original comment that he was being misrepresented.

As for the comment re: the 14th amendment, it states that you shall not be deprived of property without due process. Due process would include a court action which I believe that the chicken owners would easily win if they so choose to pursue. The GA Constitution is even more protective of property rights. Until they choose to pursue this avenue though, they cannot claim denial of due process.

Finally, KCAJ is right that it is the DOI that contains the "pursuit of happiness" quote and not the Constitution, but it and lots of other docs of the time do have legal relevance in that they have been used by the courts to try and ascertain the founding fathers intent.

I too will be very interested in the results of the Open records request. If Mr Wright and Mr Ross outright lied about the volume of negative responses, they need to answer for that.