It takes two commissioners to bring forward a request for a code change. Before Monday, Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott was the only one on record willing to consider the need to change the code dealing with chickens.
But Goreham told the Journal on Monday she would join Ott in the request.
“We’re awaiting research by Community Development on proposals for possible changes, but it doesn’t mean we’re supportive of it until we see that material,” Goreham said.
Rob Hosack, the county’s community development director, said the commission considers code changes in January.
“Ultimately it would end up being in a package that would be presented for public discussion at the very beginning of January with public hearings in January and February,” Hosack said.
Northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said last week she opposes a change to the existing code, which requires two acres to have chickens.
“What’s appropriate in some areas is not necessarily appropriate in other areas,” Birrell said. “If you look at my district where you have subdivisions with any density at all and half acre lots you have people who don’t want chickens and the issues that come with that. You hear a lot of issues from complaints from noise to odor, nuisance, whatever. I don’t support changing the code.”
Southwest Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson, who will be replaced by Commissioner-elect Lisa Cupid in January, agrees with Birrell.
“If you’ve ever seen someone putting chicken litter on their yard to get a quick start on their grass and it rains on it, it will run you out of town,” Thompson said.
Lee is not supportive of changing the code either.
“Chickens are not domestic animals as I define them, and I have no interest in having that issue grow as it relates to people’s backyards and neighborhoods,” Lee said.
Cupid said she hasn’t made up her mind.
“Driving through my district, I see them in front yards all the time,” Cupid said.
Moreover, the chickens she sees do not live on lots that are two acres or larger, she said.
“I’d have to do more research to know what the opposing arguments are, because I’ve mostly heard from people for it in the district, not from persons that are against it,” Cupid said. “I personally don’t have anything against it, but then again my neighbor doesn’t have any.”
East Cobb plumber Joseph Pond formed the Backyard Chickens Alliance after he was cited by the county’s code enforcement department last year for keeping a dozen hens on his half acre property.
Pond said he was turned in by his neighbor, Carole Kell, mother of Cobb Superior Court Judge Tain Kell.
“Carole Kell lives directly behind me,” Pond said. “She told me that she called or emailed JoAnn Birell to inquire about the legality of my chickens even though she knew they were illegal. She told me that they were going to ruin her property value.”
Pond said although he has a six foot privacy fence around his backyard, Kell lives on a hill and can therefore see over it.
Kell disputes Pond’s allegation that she turned him in.
“You know, that was so bandied back and forth in the press when it all came up,” Kell said. “I will just say that he is mistaken, and he doesn’t believe that, but he is.”
At the same time, Kell believes the code should remain the way it is.
“I don’t think chickens are needed in an urban area when houses are in such close proximity,” she said. “I think that the two-acre allowance or prohibition is a good one. … There needs to be more space for them.”
Pond said he tried to obtain a variance from the county.
“They would not issue me a variance,” he said. “I tried to take the county to court and my paperwork wasn’t filed 100 percent properly, so in November I gave my chickens away.”
Hearing that Goreham had joined Ott in wanting to explore the need for a code amendment, Pond said he was “ecstatic.”
Pond said the number of chickens an individual keeps for pets and egg production does not produce an odor that would disturb nearby neighbors. And as for noise, it’s only roosters that crow loudly, not hens, he said.
Pond said the goal of his group is to have poultry taken out of the same designation as livestock and wild, exotic animals.
“I would like to see poultry treated under the same rules as pets,” he said. “I have been working very hard, very diligently for well over a year now towards this goal. It’s like I told the commissioners in the past: Backyard chickens aren’t for everyone, but everyone should have the right to own backyard chickens.”