Thursday, August 14, 2008

On the Agenda, but not speaking...

I found out yesterday that the Wake Weekly was doing another story on the issue of Backyard Chickens in Wake Forest! Leslie Rudd, the reporter from the WW, called me on Tuesday but got my home answering machine - which I don't use very often. I did check the messages yesterday, and called Leslie back immediately. She told me that they had heard our issue was going to be on the agenda for August 19th, and she had talked with the Mayor and the Town Manager. She also told me that it would probably be put to a public hearing, which I hadn't heard before. Here's the article in the Wake Weekly, and then my notes below:

Family eggs on town for urban farm rights
By Leslie Rudd, Wake Weekly Staff Writer
August 14, 2008
Not ones to ignore citizen clucks, the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners agreed to review long-standing livestock ordinances at its Aug. 19 meeting. Renewed interest in urban farming spurred some residents to question the town’s livestock rules. Residents David and Mitzi Bissette are the only family in Wake Forest which successfully completed the annual permit process to keep farm animals (first reported July 17 in The Wake Weekly). The town requires interested residents within town limits to receive written consent to have livestock from every neighbor within 500 feet. The process is different for each applicant, depending on how many neighbors they have. Residents Emily and Mike Cole, while going through the same application, needed the approval of close to 40 neighbors. The Coles couldn’t get everyone’s OK and instead are circulating a petition to change the town’s livestock ordinance to exclude domesticated hens. Mayor Vivian Jones feels the current requirements may be over-reaching. “To notify people within 500 feet — that seems to be a pretty wide range,” she said, noting that rezoning a property requires owners to notify neighbors within only 100 feet away. Extensive media attention and a few feathery visits to the Wake Forest Farmers’ Market have the Coles the talk of the town. Commissioners obliged to Cole’s request to address the board, adding her to the next agenda. Cole presents her case to the board of commissioners Tuesday, at 7 p.m. According to her Web site,, she will ask commissioners to exclude domesticated hens from the list of livestock. She also outlines separate regulations for handling and keeping hens:
•No person shall allow his or her hens to run at large within the corporate town limits
•It shall be unlawful for any person to keep more than 20 hens within the corporate limits of the town
•Hens must be kept a minimum of 30 feet from the nearest residence other than that of the owner, unless the neighbor has given expressed written permission
•Roosters are not permitted within the corporate limits of the town unless written approval is obtained along with the livestock permit.
Cole adds hens may not be used for commercial purposes as well as detailing what kind of coop hens must be kept in. Town Manager Mark Williams said he doesn’t anticipate the board taking any action on the issue next week. “I think at this time they will take her comments under advisement. They may move to hold a public hearing on the issue at a later date.” To date, Cole added over 100 signatures to her online petition. New interest in organic food has Jones considering the full spectrum of the current rules. “A lot of people are more interested in it than they ever have been,” she said. “We don’t make you have approval for dogs that bark. It’s something that we should take a look at.” She does agree a public hearing should be held before any changes are made to the rules. Prospective changes to the livestock ordinance have the Bissette family excited. “I completely support this amendment to the town ordinances,” said David Bissette. “They are currently too restrictive, given the state of the economy and the rising costs of food production. Give us your opinion by clicking on Chickens at

Apparently the Mayor seems intrigued by the idea, and some of her comments lead me to believe she's open to the changes. The issue is on the agenda for the commissioners meeting on Tuesday, August 19, at 7pm, and I had been told I would have 5 minutes to do a presentation. I have been working on it all week... I still haven't seen the agenda for the meeting - so I called Town Hall this morning to inquire about it. I spoke with the Town Clerk, Joyce Wilson, who informed me that the issue is item 70? or maybe 17?(Update: I just got the agenda in my email, and it's item 7-D, Ha ha!) She also informed me that I will not be speaking on the issue after all... the Commissioners will discuss it, and decide about having a public hearing. The Town Clerk did recommend that I attend the meeting(duh) in case they want to ask me any questions. I will definitely be there! I will also have my presentation in hand just in case. I have sent out some emails asking for local residents to come support us at the meeting. I hope they won't be disappointed that I'm not scheduled to speak this time. I'm interested to see what comes out of this meeting and hear what the commissioners have to say on the subject.


globewoman said...

I learned about your battle for backyard chickens on HT. I support you but since I don't live there I can't sign your petition. So, I posted links to your blog in hopes that others in your area will go there and support you. Good luck and keep on clucking!

Katherine said...

Dear Em,

I've been thinking about you and your upcoming meeting all week. I'm excited to know how it goes. I just sent the following message to the editor at the Wake Weekly:

I live in Sewanee, TN and am working with my town on the issue of backyard chickens also. In my extensive research this summer, it is astounding how many cities and towns I have found that allow hens in residential neighborhoods. Some places have very specific ordinances, but many have a couple of sentences for chickens and several paragraphs regulating dogs.

Just a FEW examples of MAJOR CITIES which allow chickens are: NYC, LA, Dallas, Miami, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Atlanta, Baltimore, Hartford, Indianapolis, Oakland, Boston, Houston, St Louis, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Asheville, Mobile, New Orleans, Chapel Hill, San Francisco, Madison, Honolulu, San Antonio, Charlotte, Seattle, Phoenix, Tampa, San Jose, Portland...

It's a very exciting time to be a chicken in America. I know Wake Forest will do the right thing.

Katherine Alvarez