By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
Several years ago, Matt and Jaime Snow purchased some chickens at Tractor Supply so their three children could be involved in raising them. When they asked at Tractor Supply was there a limit on how many you could have in Greene, the store called Animal Control and was told there was no limit to the number they could have. This was incorrect.
Recently a neighbor filed a complaint with the Zoning Department about the noise coming from the Snow’s property where they had over three dozen chickens and ducks. As a result, the Zoning Department notified the Snows and, at the July Planning Commission, they came to request a Special Use Permit (SUP) as required by the county code for their property on John Boulevard in Ruckersville.
County Planner Stephanie Golon reviewed the SUP request stating it was for 20 chickens and 17 ducks in a Residential (R-1) Zone. The only agency with a concern was the Agricultural Extension Office which stated that a waste management plan was required. The recommendation of staff was to deny the SUP based upon the proximity to the adjacent landowner, the noise and waste created.
Planning Commission Chairman Jay Willer asked if the homes in the area were on well water or the county’s water supply. Golon confirmed that all of the homes in the development were on well water.
The applicants then spoke and said that a neighbor had spoken to them about the noise and based on that they moved the pen away from the neighbor’s property line. They also built a pen for all but 2 of the males who make the noise. And they also put up a fence to block the view.
Mr. Snow also let the commissioners know that he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and working with the animals is calming for him. He explained that he and his wife also want to show that all food doesn’t come from a store and to teach them the value of hard work.
One citizen, the neighbor who had the pen close to her property and filed the complaint, spoke to the Commission stating that the noise is very irritating to her and her family. She also stated that she had seen on E-Bay the sale of two of the animals. And, finally, she said that this is her retirement home and it is very concerning to have this next to her.
The Commissioners discussed the request. Two members said they had visited the property and one spoke to several other neighbors – none of which had any problems with noise, smell, runoff or feathers and they appreciated the privacy fence on the property at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Golon pointed out to the commission that the Snows placed the condition on the SUP that it would expire when/if they sold the property. Normally, SUPs continue with the property regardless of parcel ownership.
Willler addressed the Snows, thanked Mr. Snow for his military service and he was sorry they were given the incorrect information, but it is not up to the Sheriff’s Animal Control officer to decide and they should have been referred to the Planning Department. Willler also told the Snows that the Planning Commission could only consider the quantity that they have requested and couldn’t “negotiate” a smaller number as the Supervisors also couldn’t discuss a change during the hearing of a SUP.
Willer went on to state that two years the Greene County code was reviewed and came up with 6 chickens by right and any more chickens or any amount of other fowl would require a Special Use Permit.
Golon interjected that the Zoning Department could have further discussions with the applicant if the SUP was deferred. She also stated that she is willing to work with the applicant to develop a Waste Management System as part of a new submission.
With that information, the applicant agreed to work on the SUP and the Commission voted unanimously to defer the request to the August meeting. It was clarified that no new public hearing is required but Willler offered the neighbor who spoke to come back and speak again as well as any other neighbors.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you. To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org