On Tuesday, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners granted the first exception for backyard chickens to be raised on a small residential lot by an Austell family.
Jeremy Rzentkowski told the board his wife and two children want to own two hens that can provide them with fresh eggs. It’s part of what he called the “pets with a purpose” movement.
Rzentkowski lives on Sutterlee Woods Lane in a small yellow home on a residential court off of Hill Crest Drive near Six Flags.
Although the property is less than a quarter-acre lot, with a slight hill and little vegetation, the county code allows a pathway for residents who live on less than 2 acres to have hens.
In February, the Board of Commissioners decided to allow small lots to contain one hen per 5,000 square feet, with no roosters, on a case-by-case basis.
The 3-2 vote, with Commissioner JoAnn Birrell and Chairman Tim Lee opposed, is the first time this process has ended with approval.
The split vote is not a perfect solution, since the zoning ordinance requires Rzentkowski to keep the 5-foot-wide coop within 10 feet of his house.
This limited space restricts Rzentkowski’s plan for a movable coop that allows the chickens access to fresh grass and to fertilize the entire yard.
He told the board he wanted approval to reposition the pen anywhere in the back of the property, as long as it remained 10 feet from neighboring property lines.
When the Board of Zoning Appeals approved the request last month, it did not allow for this mobility.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid was ready at Tuesday’s meeting to modify the restrictions for Rzentkowski, but Lee reminded her that the board can only approve or deny the recommendation sent by the Board of Zoning Appeals.
The board told Rzentkowski the approval gives him the ability to have backyard chickens, but if he wants to expand the area they can roost, he will have to reapply with the Board of Zoning Appeals with those exact allowances.
Rzentkowski said he already paid the $160 application fee for this process.
The board and staff said another fee could be waived, and that they were already discussing reducing the fees.
The new code does not require adjacent property owners to sign off on a backyard chickens request, but the board is asked to take any conflict into consideration.
Commissioner Bob Ott said the fact that there was no opposition to the request shows good communication with Rzentkowski’s neighbors.
“My neighbors trust me, and in return I will not disappoint them,” Rzentkowski said.
The approval is only good for one year, so the Board of Commissioners can monitor the impact the hens will have on the area.
Tuesday, the board and staff discussed lowering the renewal rates for previously approved lots.
Birrell and Lee, who both also voted against the overall exemption process, did not support Rzentkowski’s request because his property is smaller than the 2 acres that is preferred by the county.
Cupid reminded the board of statements Lee made earlier in Tuesday’s meeting when discussing a new psychic reading business by a Romani Gypsy family.
Cupid restated Lee’s comments that Cobb County has various cultures and that consideration should be taken for people with unique practices.
However, Lee still voted against this first-time exception. “I would hate to go into uncharted waters and drown,” Lee said.