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City ordinance allows poultry--need help convincing HOA

 
Gregory Stone
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Hello--
I live in Lacey, WA. My city ordinances (since 200 allow for urban-farming practices, including raising small livestock. I have 10 hens that have become an intimate, integral part of my emerging backyard "food forest." I am currently deployed (Army), and my HOA just served my wife a letter asking us to remove our chickens. After all the work/money I've invested, this literally kept me awake most of the night after hearing of the notification, and has me pretty bummed out (I think about it fairly constantly). I have crafted a letter with the intent to either convince my HOA to let us keep the chickens, or flush out the fact that they are simply taking an entrenched, prejudicial stance (which I intend to use as evidence later when I approach local, state, and Federal reps under the auspices of "sustainability").

A copy of my draft is located at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IXVrJsLA4lHI7JP5-LbON_SbS2Q4CIrRegiSGkKJM7Q/edit?usp=drive_web; I am looking for feedback, especially on citations I can include that will directly support my argument. Some of the citations I have included provide more indirect than direct support, so if any of you have better information, I will gratefully welcome it.
 
Ann Torrence
steward
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Do you want to win or be right? Your letter is too long, too much thinking required for people who have already made up their minds that you are a "violator" of their precious rules and must be disciplined. It's going to take some convincing. I don't think this fight can't be conducted at a distance. You need to knock on doors, get the board over to see the birds and the cleanliness of the situation, show them how it doesn't destroy the neighborhood. Bribe them with eggs.

I'd play the "I'm deployed in the service of our country, can we please have a variance until I return on xx date because my poor wife is just trying to provide food for our family in my absence and it's already so traumatic for our kids" card. That will give you some time to get home and cook up some humble pie. Or get yourself elected to the board. Or move. Personally, I'd choose the third option.
 
Zach Muller
gardener
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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Sorry to hear of your troubles Gregory. I can totally relate To staying up worrying about losing your flock., that is a nightmare . I read your letter and it looks pretty good.
A few thoughts though based on my experience with neighborhood control groups, and neighbors in general.

What you have written is a logical argument that essentially says the hoa rules should not apply to chickens, and I agree. Do you think the people on the board of the hoa will appreciate a logical argument? What else could convince them?

Why did someone report your chickens to the hoa in the first place? When I was part of my neighborhood association I was surprised how little the people really even cared what the rules were, they just liked utilizing the power behind them. When it came to changing the rules they just wanted to have their opinion considered and maybe argue for a while before saying ok.

Here is a blurb from wiki that will most likely be an hoas defense against anything constitutional. The second statement about state actors is misleading, as everything in the states is subject to constitutional constraints.

Associations provide services, regulate activities, levy assessments, and may, if authorized by CC&Rs or a state legislature, impose fines. Unlike a municipal (public) government, they are not deemed "state actors" subject to constitutional constraints.[12] A homeowners association can enforce its actions through the threat and levying of fines and private legal or equitable actions seeking damages, foreclosure or injunction, under civil law. Homeowners have the ability to defend against such actions, and are usually entitled to sue associations for contractual or statutory violations, or for a legal determination as to the enforceability of a provision in the CC&Rs corporate documents or board-enacted rule. However, they cannot sue for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983 because associations are private corporations and not public governments.



You very well may expose an 'entrenched prejudicial stance', but when you appeal to local, state, federal reps they will not be worried about prejudice against a chicken or against sustainability. They will most likely only be concerned about real legal prejudice against a group like a race, sex, class, etc.
when you join an hoa you sign a contract and that is important when considering what rights you have. Many constitutional rights are not always applicable on private property, especially when contracts like this are involved.

I feel like kind of a downer with all this, but I really want you to succeed and get to keep your chickens. Best of luck and keep us posted as things unfold.
 
Zach Muller
gardener
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I was avoiding saying it but I agree with Ann, play the deployed in service of our country card asap. You deserve to keep these chickens!
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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In the HOA agreement you signed when you bought your house, what did you agree to? Do you or your wife have a copy?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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100% agree with Zach and Ann - play that card.

And please don't move! We need more permaculturists embedded in HOA communities so we can challenge some of those perceptions. You have an excellent outline for that in your letter. But first move - the deployed individual serving his country!
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
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Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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I like Zach's response, and adding onto that, it will be rather hard to make your case because frankly, it does not matter you think or want. If you signed a contract when you bought the house/property, you are legally obligated to fulfill that contract, and any violations thereof are fair game for litigation and the appropriate consequences are dictated in the terms of the contract. Regarding this, the consequences seem to me to be a scare factor to undermine any attempts to violate the contract, and from their standpoint, it just does not matter what others or you think. Contracts are contracts; however, with that in mind, I love to reference Henry David Thoreau and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience because the gist of his essay, in my view, is that one has the duty to violate the law and legal obligations when they are harmful to the good of the people. That was what I got out of reading his essay- to critically analyze the actions of government. Then, if the government actions are harmful to the public, violate them until enough people understand what is going on and the snowball ensues and sets things in motion.

In the news, Jason Helvenston a while ago fought to keep his garden on his lawn, and eventually after many others joined in and protests grew, the city of Orlando changed their laws. This kind of demonstrates that although you are bound by law and contracts, by violating them, you can bring the issue to the forefront of the public's mind and start the process of challenging the laws and contracts that bind you. The issue then becomes open for review through court. Other ways would include the usual petition/online petitionand initiative.

Going full circle, that is why I plan to do guerrilla gardening and grafting once I am on my own and out of college. So, best of wishes to you Gregory! Your letter is awesome! Now, please, stay and have fun fighting the good fight to keep your chickens! Going back full circle again, if the power to govern comes from the "consent of the governed" then the citizens are the highest power making really our ideas the law; we just have to participate and be active.

I can't remember where i read it, but I do remember that Art Ludwig, the writer of Oasis Design, had violated California's greywater laws, and they came to his house. However, when he showed them how well his system ran and how safe it was, they recruited him to rewrite their greywater laws because he knew what he was doing.

Pardon my profanity, but go fuck shit up! Try to be nice about it, though. Please excuse me if I got too political and offended anyone.
 
Are you okay? You look a little big. Maybe this tiny ad will help:
The stocking stuffer game for all your Permaculture companions
http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
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