By a unanimous vote, the five-member Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday gave Joseph Pond and his family 45 days to get rid of the 11 pet chickens he’s keeping on his half-acre lot on Plantation Drive, near the intersection of Johnson Ferry and Shallowford Roads.
A county ordinance in place since 1972 requires at least two acres for keeping livestock such as chickens. Pond bought his chickens in April — and told the board Wednesday that he believed at the time they were legal under a state law. He was cited by code enforcement on June 29, after which he requested a zoning variance.
Pond’s supporters in the audience on Wednesday included his wife and two children, plus a few more people who support backyard chickens.
Carole Kell, whose backyard abuts the Ponds’ property, spoke against allowing the animals to remain. Jill Flamm, president of the East Cobb Civic Association, also spoke against it.
Pond was the only person speaking in favor of allowing the chickens.
“My hens are not in any way nuisance animals. They stay in their coop almost all of the time. … The laws, as clear as they are, are not black and white. They are shades of gray. I just want to provide safe, fresh eggs to my family and keep my family’s pets,” he told the board members.
After the vote, Madeline Pond, 10, burst into tears. Her father, Joseph, said he’s not sure what he will do with the chickens now, and may retain legal counsel.
“I have to look into what my options are,” he said.
Kell believes Pond has no one to blame but himself.
“He chose to break the law. He knew there was an ordinance when he bought the chickens,” she said. “We teach our children — you know, I was a schoolteacher and principal forever — we teach our children to obey the law. To me, he is demonstrating to his children it’s OK if you don’t like the law, you just go ahead and then you try to get forgiveness.
“I disagree with the fact that he put the chickens on his property. I would have bought two acres somewhere if I wanted chickens,” she said.
David Poteet, the zoning appeals board member who represents the area, said he believes that allowing the chickens on such a small lot “would nullify the code.”
“To approve this variance request is overstepping our bounds,” Poteet said.
The decision can be appealed in Superior Court, according to the county’s zoning manager.