Garner debate over pets turns fowl

kjahner@newsobserver.comJune 7, 2013 

During public comments at the beginning of Monday’s town council meeting, a resident cried foul. Well, he was actually crying foul over a neighbor crying foul. So the town held off on enforcing its own rules on fowl. Still following?

Howard Michael keeps pet chickens in a coop in his yard; a neighbor complained and he had a note from animal control fixed to his door. At Michael’s request the council agreed Monday night to put a moratorium on enforcing the 2009 ordinance Michael said he unknowingly violated.

“These are family pets we’ve had since they were chicks,” Michael said. “This was our first complaint in a year with four neighbors within 30 feet of my house.”

Michael, a resident of his current house for 13 years, said he’s done research and found Garner’s limitations “the most restrictive.” He even took an indirect shot at Cary, saying even the Raleigh suburb noted for tight land use restrictions had passed an ordinance allowing chickens in certain circumstances. He notes that many of the towns have changed their rules since the 2009 ordinance was adopted.

The council agreed to pause enforcement to give the town time to reconsider the issue.

“I know there are numerous people in Garner who have had chickens for years and still have them. And there’ve been no complaints,” Councilan Gra Singleton said.

The issue had been broached by council off and on since 2009, Singleton said, and a proposal that allowed for 6-8 chickens under certain conditions had been discussed, but didn’t have enough vocal support to win passage.

Michael said he found out after the fact which neighbor complained and asked about it.

“I had a discussion with her driveway to driveway on this past weekend. I asked several times if you had a complaint over the last year why didn’t you bring it forward to me, why didn’t you let me know,” Michael said. “I still did not get a direct answer.”

Michael keeps the chickens in a coop on a bed of pinewood that is cleaned regularly, and all of it is behind a privacy fence in his yard. He said there’s no odor stemming from the coop.

Later in the meeting in the process of deciding on the moratorium the council discussed the issue, diverting on a number of relevant tangents, comparisons and questions to ask as they re-evaluated. The issue ate up roughly half-hour of discussion during the two-hour meeting.

“I’m willing to go back and look at it,” said Councilman Ken Marshburn, who had opposed the earlier change. “I wouldn’t say it should take precedence over more pressing business.”

Singleton jokingly suggested at the end of the meeting that for the council’s next pre-meeting dinner, chicken wings be served, capping off a string of admittedly bad puns from other members.

“I couldn’t resist,” Singleton said to an echo of groans.

Jahner: 919-829-4822

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