Here's the story that ran in the North Raleigh News section of the News and Observer today!
If you're here to sign the petition, please click here!
I think that perhaps some of our neighbors who are in favor of the amended ordinance need to send some letters to Bill Summers and also maybe to our Mayor, Vivian Jones. In the sidebar of the online version of this article is a great link to some more truths about backyard chickens! I hope it will help straighten out some of the misconceptions that are out there!
Urban coops create neighbor quandary
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall, Staff Writer
Staff Photos by Chris Seward
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WAKE FOREST - The Bissette family keeps chickens in their yard across the street from the town's popular Holding Park. The hens help keep bugs away from the Bissettes' organic garden. They've become part of the family of five, just like rabbits and a dog. And soon the hens will be old enough to lay eggs.
About a mile away in the Pineview Estates neighborhood, Emily Cole wants a similar setup for her family. But she's not allowed. Unlike the Bissettes, not all of Cole's 37 neighbors who live within 500 feet signed off on her plan, as a town law requires. So Cole is taking her plight to Wake Forest's board of commissioners. She's scheduled to speak at its Aug. 19 meeting.
Cole hopes to persuade the town to change the ordinance so that residents can keep as many as 20 hens without approval from neighbors.
"I'm just trying to stand up for what I believe in," said Cole, the mom of two and a Brownie troop leader. "I feel like I want to teach my [Brownies] that if they believe in something they can do something about it. I can't talk the talk and not walk the walk."
Concerns about the treatment of chickens at factory farms, the safety of massed-produced food, and the rising cost of just about everything have helped bring chickens into the suburbs.
"In terms of agriculture and growing food, it's easier than gardening," said Rick Bennett, who has kept chickens in his yard in Raleigh's Five Points neighborhood for three years. Bennett said he's watching the chicken debates in other towns with amusement. "Some of the reasons [against it] going around seem a little hysterical," he said. "They're overly worried about opening a Pandora's box without coming by and seeing what's happening."
Across the nation, town and city officials are fielding requests such as Cole's.
Critics worry that the birds are noisy, smelly and unsanitary.
Bill Summers, a Wake Forest planner, said he's not sure the town's rules are strict enough, because residential lots in the town are much closer than when the law was originally drafted.
Summers said he received an anonymous letter from one of Cole's neighbors strongly opposing any plans for chickens nearby. The letter writer was concerned about the noise and feces, especially where waste would go after a storm, he said. "People are really polarized on this issue," Summers said.
Proponents point out that well-kept chickens are quieter and cleaner than most pet dogs.
"I have a daily chicken tour," Bennett said. Parents bring their kids, he said, "because it's a connection with where their food comes from."
Across the Triangle
Elsewhere in the Triangle, Durham officials are considering relaxing rules that ban poultry in most parts of the city. Cary's Town Council voted down a proposal last month to allow the keeping of laying hens. But in other parts of the Triangle, chickens flourish.
Raleigh's rules are among the region's most liberal, allowing chickens in the city limits as long as they don't violate health and nuisance standards. Chicken owners inside the Beltline hold an annual Tour d'Coop, during which visitors can learn more about urban chicken-keepers.
Chickens also are allowed in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
In Wake Forest, Summers said he fields about a call a month from people interested in keeping chickens and other livestock in town. The town requires annual renewal of permits allowing chickens and other livestock -- which means chicken owners must return to their neighbors every year to ask permission. "It guards against things like noise," Summers said. "We are not animal-control professionals. If somebody is going to house animals of this type, they need to have permissions from their neighbors."
And though Summers gets monthly requests about keeping livestock in the town limits, Wake Forest has approved only one permit in the past five years -- for the Bissettes. Dave Bissette wanted to get chickens because he remembered the flock that his father kept when he was a child. Bissette wanted his three girls to have the same experience.
A month ago, Bissette launched http://www.catawbacoops.com/ which chronicles the family's experience getting chickens. His site also sells three to four plans a day for his moveable chicken coops, which are more like cabinets; they range from $15 to $22. "I had no clue that there was this kind of demand for these plans," he said.
No chicken, she
The Bissettes hope Cole is successful. If not, the Bissettes will have to return to their neighbors next year to make sure their permit is renewed.
Cole is not necessarily comfortable in her role as chicken activist. She has started a blog about her experience. But she says she wants what is best for her family, including food Cole believes isn't harmful.
So far, more than 230 people have signed her petition online or at the Wake Forest Farmers Market. She'll be at the market again Saturday. "I got a lot of positive response from my neighbors and a very little bit of negative response," she said. "Since I believe in this idea, I felt I was going to jump in head-first and go after it."