Tonight the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of changing the town ordinance so that residents may keep up to 10 hens in their yards without any sort of permit.
Woo Hooo!!! Yippeee!!! Cowabunga!!! (can you think of any other exclamation I could use?)
When the public hearing session was opened, I made a brief statement about the number being to low (at the suggested 5). Then several other members of the community spoke in favor of the change. Gerald Potter, whom I had met at the Farmer's Market one Saturday spoke about the importance of people knowing where their food comes from, and talked about the Victory Gardens and Wake Forest's role in helping it's residents when times were tough by bringing topsoil in so folks could grow their own foods. Jeff Boldizar brought information about a town in California which is known for it's chickens - they even have a festival each year! Dave Bissette also chimed in with statistics about Victory Gardens and the fact that in the '40s about 40% of a person's food was grown or produced somehow within their community. The consensus was reached by all that the number of hens allowed should be raised to 10, and that it was an important step for the Town of Wake Forest toward a more sustainable future.
There were no community members in attendance who spoke in opposition to the amendment, however, Commissioner Thibodeau did have some reservations about the change. He stated his concern that if any size parcel could have 10 hens there could be problems. Commissioner Drake tried to reassure him that most of the newer home communities with these smaller sized lots were governed under HOA's and the point was made that most of the HOA's don't allow any hens, so it shouldn't be much of an issue. Thibodeau was also concerned about there being no limitations set on where the hens could be housed. He stated there could be traffic issues if chickens housed in front yards were to get out and roam into the streets. Commissioner Stinnett replied that there were no restrictions on cats or dogs in the same manner, and so she didn't see any reason for there to be such restrictions on the chickens either.
I personally do think that Thibodeau's points were valid - that's why I had originally drafted a fairly stringent ordinance revision for the Commissioners to review in August. Their own staff decided to go the 'easy' route and make it as simple as possible - The wording will only add roughly a paragraph to the existing ordinance books. While I understand the town doesn't have the staff to enforce the permitting restrictions I had proposed, I am surprised at the lack of restrictions. (Not that I'm complaining!)
When time came to vote on the issue, Thibodeau's "nay" was the only one heard, so that meant the amendment passed 4-1.
After the vote, I spoke with Kerry Hall from NBC 17 out in the hallway, and she said a segment will run on the 11pm news tonight. (I've got my DVR set to record!) The Wake Weekly's David Leone was there, as well as Carol Pelosi of the Wake Forest Gazette. I'm interested to see their stories later this week.
I am so thankful for all of the support I have received from this community - especially the Bissette family, and the folks who came out to the public hearing tonight. There were several others there who didn't speak, but showed their support by attending - THANK YOU! I couldn't have done it without that support, and without the knowledge that I wasn't just doing this for myself. This change to the town ordinance will make it much easier for many other families to have a few chickens of their own... have fresh eggs that they know are healthy... this is a great step forward for our entire community!