January 27, 2012

The Chickens Prevail!

Eli and Foghorn. Eli came to the meeting to show his support!
A huge collective sigh of relief has descended upon the Sunnyglen Drive neighborhood – we get to keep our chickens! I thought I’d share a bit about how sh*t went down at our HOA Board meeting last night.

In case you need the background:  Paul and I have had chickens in our backyard since last March. In September, our next door neighbor began complaining about the noise they were making (and separately, the noise coming from our house, our music, and our guests). Because so many complaints were filed, the HOA needed to have a hearing where we would discuss the future of the chickens (namely, if we were in violation of the CCRs of the HOA).

You know me - I had graphics, a powerpoint presentation, and handouts prepared for that meeting. I practiced my argument numerous times in front of friends. That HOA (and our neighbor) had no idea what they were up against! We made it to the meeting with a convoy of supporters. I was nervous. I began by introducing ourselves and the context of the situation. I then started my argument, focusing on the one CCR having to do with animals. It states:

“An occupant may keep domestic dogs, cats, fish and birds provided he/she doesn’t keep them for commercial purposes…keeps no more than the maximum number allowed by Governmental Regulations…and the Association can prohibit the keeping of any animal that it determines to be a nuisance to any person of reasonable and normal sensitivity.” (emphasis mine)

To me, the argument was clear – we were within our rights as homeowners. Chickens are domestic birds. The City of Vallejo has no limit to the number of chickens a person can raise. And our neighbor (the complainant) is not reasonable, nor is she of normal sensitivity. 

I broke the CCR down sentence by sentence, and when I got to the part about her being unreasonable, that’s when things got heated. Note: this neighbor is a BOARD MEMBER of our HOA. She was not allowed to vote in this case, though she was allowed to defend herself as a member of the development. I proceeded to tell the Board how bat shit crazy she is. How she has complained about the noises from our house since (literally) the day we moved in. About the passive aggressive notes she leaves in our mailbox. How we’re more than happy to turn the music down if she would just call us or come over. How I got rid of 3 chickens just to compromise, and she still is complaining. How all of our neighbors have signed a document stating the chickens are not loud or a nuisance to our neighborhood. All of which makes her the unreasonable and sensitive one.  The 6 neighbors that came to the meeting with us spoke about their love for the chickens, and about our neighbor’s “character.” That they too have been harassed by her for different reasons.

She did not like this one bit.

When it was her turn to defend herself, she started reaching for all the ammo she could. She presented to the Board a log of every noise that has bothered her coming from our house (from music, to chickens, to parties). Most was between the hours of 7am-10pm (which is completely allowed). She said the noise resonated throughout her whole house. That her son wakes up screaming because the chickens are noisy. How numerous people “come and go” from our house, and how our garage has become the neighborhood hangout (jealous much?) How she’s had to rescue Coco before when she escaped out of our yard. How our cats somehow end up on her porch. There were so many lies I couldn’t keep track of them all. It took everything I had not to laugh or smirk (which I did a few times, whoops!) 

In the end, the Board decided that the chickens were indeed allowed. They diplomatically and politely told our neighbor that because she’s the only one sensitive to the noise and that it’s something that doesn’t affect the whole neighborhood – the complaints should be forwarded to the police.

She did not like this either. 

The Board encouraged us to come to some sort of compromise - and we're ready and willing for that. Now we’re just waiting for her phone call (though I’m not expecting that anytime soon). In the meantime, I gave Foghorn, Leghorn, and Rafiki a big hug and some treats this morning. I’m so happy I get to keep my babies!


Anonymous said...

That's awesome! I really like how you went about defending your right to keep your chickens! They are good looking chickens too. And your neighbor does sounds pretty crazy! lol

-Jenna W.

Anonymous said...

I love it!! CONGRATS!!

Melissa Marsh said...

Way to go Shan! Congratulations. I'm glad this stress is closed for now (hopefully the compromise convo isn't crazy).
-Melissa M.

Max said...

Awesome! Maybe you could represent the small farmers being harassed by the state and help consumers get access to healthy local food.