RIDGELEY – It's been nearly a year since Emilee Ryan pleaded with the Ridgeley mayor and council on behalf of her 6-month-old chicken, Nugget, and her other chickens.
By Ronda Wertman
RIDGELEY – It’s been nearly a year since Emilee Ryan pleaded with the Ridgeley mayor and council on behalf of her 6-month-old chicken, Nugget, and her other chickens.
However, the council’s position on her pets has not changed.
Since September 2016 Ryan and her mother, Tanya Ryan, who was recently elected to the town council, have been in and out of court for citations relating to the chickens.
Ryan originally had 20 chickens, but the number was reduced to eight - six more than what the judge allowed her to keep.
The judge had also said that Ryan could bring her request for a variance to the ordinance back to the newly-elected council.
“You put forth a good argument, making good solid points,” said housing and ordinance commissioner Duke Lantz to Ryan on her letter to the council.
He however cited concerns raised by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in regard to backyard poultry.
“It’s not about you, Emilee, or your chickens. It’s about public health,” he said. “Your case would set a precedent, if we grant the variance.”
Ryan noted that her chickens were special ordered and vaccinated.
A recommendation of the CDC is that chickens are seen regularly by a veterinarian, but Ryan’s chickens have not had a vet visit.
While members of the council are adamantly opposed to having chickens in town for health concerns, part of the problem lies with the town’s ordinances, which need to be updated.
Ordinance 530-1 prohibits livestock in the town limits, but Ordinance 546-2, which replaces it, allows for an exception that animals less than 100 pounds can be maintained at a rate of one per every 3,500 square feet of property owned.
Under this section, Ryan, with an acre of land, would be entitled to 12 chickens.
The last sentence; however, adds that the exception may not be allowed if so ruled by the town council.
“It’s not enforceable the way that it is written,” said Lantz. “I am afraid that allowing something like this will snowball into something we don’t want it to be.”
“There’s been a judicial decision,” said mayor Lynn Carr, noting that the council voted no and the judge ruled that Ryan could keep two.
“I don’t see a reason why I should be denied my chickens,” said Ryan.
“You are in contempt of a court order. What says that you would listen to our ruling,” said Lantz.
Carr called for a motion and commissioners Don McFarland and Mark Jones confirmed their original votes against the variance. They were joined by both commissioners Butch Hawse and Lantz, who were not in favor.
Lantz put the councils’ sentiment into a motion, noting that in the interest of public health and the future of the town, the position of the town in denying the variance remains unchanged and if Ryan wants she can take the matter back to court in appeal.
The motion passed unanimously, with commissioner Ryan abstaining from the vote.