Letters

Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

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Petoskey‘s Rooster Ruckus

Noah Fowle - November 23rd, 2009
Petoskey’s Rooster Ruckus

Feathers fly in dispute over a pet chicken in Petoskey


By Noah Fowle

Look what a rooster has undone.
The growth of the urban agriculture movement may make hens more popular and acceptable as household pets, but the same cannot be said for their male counterparts. Just ask Sharon and Andy Peters, a Northern Michigan couple in the midst of a lengthy court battle over their pet rooster, Beaker.
The product of a late hatch from a 2007 kindergarten class project, Beaker came to his family’s home in Bear Creek Township more out of necessity than the Peters’ desire to keep a pet chicken. With a lame foot, poor eyesight and barely enough strength to lift his own head to eat, it was clear that Beaker would not survive amongst his brethren and so Sharon gave him a home, nursing him to health. The Peters, along with their dog and cat, bonded with Beaker, and soon he was just another member of the brood.
“I’m a bird hunter,” Andy said. “I’m the last one you would expect to have a pet chicken.”
But even as an adult, Sharon said Beaker’s physical ailments prevented him from functioning on a farm like a normal rooster.
“He’s a special needs chicken,” she said.

LEGAL TROUBLES
All was well with the family, until a series of anonymous complaints were logged with Emmet County officials last year. A zoning ordinance enforcement officer conducted an investigation and determined that by keeping a farm animal as a pet, the Peters were in fact running a domestic farm in a residential zoned neighborhood.
The Peters claim their neighbors have never spoken to them face-to-face about their grievances over Beaker except when the two parties appeared at an August zoning board of appeals meeting. The Peters paid the standard $200 appearance and first requested a reinterpretation of the ordinance. That request was unanimously voted down and so to was their subsequent request for a variance dropping the two-acre requirement for a domestic farm. By the end of the meeting, Sharon was in tears, and Andy and one of his neighbors had exchanged some heated words.
But the fight was far from over and the Peters prepared for their day in court where they planned to contest their $100 citation. While the Peters could not gain support from within the county, support from the surrounding community swelled behind them. Editorials and letters-to-the-editor championed Beaker and his family in the local paper, and Andy amassed a few hundred signatures after posting a series of petitions in local businesses.
But on August 26, the sentiment for Beaker that permeated the Petoskey area did not find its way into the courtroom. Because the trial only concerned whether the Peters were in violation of the ordinance or not by running a domestic farm, Judge Richard May barred testimony from the neighbors that the bird was a nuisance. However, that victory was short lived.
“Personally, I’d like to find a way to rule in favor of the Peters,” Judge Richard May said. “But the law requires I rule the other way.”

A COMPROMISE
Despite that decision, the Peters went before the Emmet County Board of Commissioners the next month and finally received their first victory. After more than an hour of discussion that at times devolved into little more than a shouting match, the board directed its civil counsel Kathleen Abbott to seek a compromise between the two parties.
Although the offended neighbors declined repeated requests for comment, following that board meeting they called some of the commissioners to detail their complaints.
In November, Abbott returned to the board of commissioners and in a written statement explained, “[The neighbors] advised they did not wish to see the case settled and wished to see the court order entered directing removal of the Peters’ pet rooster from the property in accordance with Judge May’s August 26 decision.”
Although the Peters offered to impose a regimented time as to when Beaker was allowed outside, the board sent the issue back to the courts.
“We had outlined a plan of care that was least intrusive to our neighbors, what hours Beaker would be outside. A half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening,” Sharon said. “And they didn’t even care, they didn’t want to see it, they didn’t want to deal with it.”
An order was entered on Nov. 4 and the Peters have 21-days to bring their property under compliance with the ordinance.

COMPLAINTS OVER CROWING
“If you had a rooster in the house that nobody could hear that wouldn’t be a problem, but that’s not the case. It’s outside and crowing and the neighbors are complaining,” the board’s chairman Jim Tamlyn said. “The thing about zoning is it protects you from your neighbor and your neighbor from you. And it worked here.”
Abbott explained that should the Peters fail to follow the judge’s order, the county will not take any sort of action against them to remove the bird. Nor would there be any reason to euthanize Beaker. But despite his role as a pet within the home, Abbott said the Peters were responsible for bringing their property into compliance by ridding it of Beaker.
“We’re not without some compassion or concern for the Peters’ position, but we have an ordinance on the books and it is our obligation to enforce that,” she said.
“In the mean time, both the Peters and one of their neighbors are currently trying to sell their homes.” The Peters also plan to either appeal the original decision or seek a re-determination in the case. Despite fielding multiple offers to provide for Beaker on a traditional farm, Sharon and Andy remain steadfast that they do not intend to give up their pet rooster, no matter who tells them to.
“I’ll keep him indoors 24 hours a day,” Andy said. “And I’ll see what the law has to say about that.”

 
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