The Cobb Board of Zoning Appeals has unanimously denied chicken advocate Joseph Pond’s request to keep four hens on his east Cobb property.
Wednesday was the first chance for the board to test out a new poultry ordinance recently adopted by the Cobb Board of Commissioners, which provides a pathway for residents who live on fewer than 2 acres but who want to have hens.
Speaking against Pond’s request for hens were Jill Flamm, president of the East Cobb Civic Association, Vince Parkhouse, president of the Marlanta III Homeowner’s Association; and Beth Jones, who lives in the Marlanta neighborhood.
Jones said her parents have chickens on their 72-acre farm.
“I can tell you having gone up there and fed them and cared for them, that they are very nasty smelling, noisy critters,” Jones said.
Jones said chickens don’t eat all the feed that’s put out for them.
“They peck at it and leave little bits of it everywhere, and those little bits that are left could attract vermin to the area,” she said.
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s appointment to the appeals board, David Poteet, made the recommendation to deny Pond’s request, referencing an April 29 email from Robyn Funderburg, who lives across the street from Pond. In that email, Funderburg writes that she has reported Pond to the county in the past over having chickens.
“We are looking to put our house on the market next spring, and I am worried that if his variance is approved, we will have issues selling our home,” Funderburg wrote. “We have enough issues with several of the other neighbors (a lot of renters, not taking care of their property or house, etc.) that is going to make it hard to get a buyer. I really don’t want and or need any more additional issues with selling our home.”
Poteet also referenced the new code.
“I’ve got the code right here, and if I read it correctly and after talking to (the county attorney) we have to heavily consider people in the direct area as well as in particular adjacent property owners,” Poteet said.
Pond expressed his disappointment after the meeting.
“I don’t think that they followed the intent of the law or even the letter of the law,” Pond said, noting his course of action is either to live with the decision and reapply at a later date or appeal to the Cobb Superior Court.
Another request approved
Rob Hosack, the county’s community development director, told the MDJ after the meeting that the new code does not require all adjacent property owners to sign off on someone who wants hens. It’s simply one item the board is asked to take into consideration.
Pond blamed the East Cobb Civic Association for killing his request.
“I think there’s no question that Jill Flamm rallied the other homeowner associations as she stated to come out and defeat this,” Pond said. “I think it’s a crying shame that they consider themselves the protectors of Cobb County.”
While it denied Pond’s request, the board approved a request for two hens by Jeremy Rzentkowski, who lives south of Mableton Parkway near the Chattahoochee River.
No one spoke in opposition to Rzentkowski’s request.
Commissioner Bob Ott’s appointment to the board, Kim Swanson, raised a concern over the chicken coop the two birds would be caged in, asking what he planned to do with the ground as he moved the cage from soiled to fresh grass.
“I guess I could hose that off. It is a natural fertilizer,” Rzentkowski said.
Responded Swanson: “I’m just concerned especially with regards to the feathers, if you could just clean up that area so that your backyard does not become an entire area of the chicken feathers and the other debris that they leave behind.”
Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s board appointment, Murray Homan, made the recommendation to approve a variance for the two hens with a few caveats. Rzentkowski may not sell the birds or the eggs, although he could give them away, Homan said.
And the coop had to be within 10 feet of the back of his house. The variance would also last one year, at which time the board would review it again.
“You will be allowed to keep two ducks on this property,” Homan told him, correcting himself to say “chickens.”
The board’s approval is simply a recommendation. The code now requires the full Board of Commissioners to vote on it before Rzentkowski gets to have the two hens.