Thursday, April 12, 2012
Score one for freedom and grassroots activism. Johnson City, Tennessee commissioners voted 3-2 to amend their current zoning ordinance and allow chickens to be kept as ‘pets’ in residential areas. This reversed a 2010 decision, when officials first considered allowing chickens but decided against it.
Emily Katt was so certain they would reverse the ordinance that she purchased a few chickens and started raising them in her backyard. Her husband even built her a chicken coop as a birthday present. After the decision and a complaint by a nosy neighbor, Emily was forced to sell the coop and her chickens to a co-worker living in a ‘chicken-approved’ zone.
Emily and another chicken-owner, Sam Jones, decided not to take this lying down. Instead, in a terrific display of grassroots activism, they started a group called COOP (Chickens On Our Property), rallied fellow freedom-loving citizens, collected several hundred signatures, stayed in front of officials, and after almost two years finally convinced the Johnson City Commission to reverse their decision.
It’s about so much more than just chickens
For Emily, it’s about more than just the ability to have a pet with feathers.
“I feel that there’s an independence there that should be available to everyone. I don’t want to live on a farm, there’s a lot that we need to be in the city for. My yard has become a very small scale farm microcosm. It doesn’t take a lot of land to have a little bit of freedom and self-sufficiency.”
Not everyone was in favor. Mayor Jeff Banyas said, “I’m really not convinced. I don’t think people will move to the city and reasonably expect there to be farm animals.” He and Vice Mayor Phil Carriger were the only two votes against the measure.
So, pit bulls are OK but chickens, chickens are a problem. The real question is, do people living in a city have the same natural, common law, God-given rights that everyone else should have?
City Manager Pete Peterson said, “That will end up causing extra costs for us and end up being very expensive.”
We’re not exactly sure how ‘allowing’ citizens to have an extra degree of freedom and self-sufficiency would be ‘very expensive.’ While some zoning ordinances to protect neighbors might be understandable, what business is it of government, any government, if a household keeps chickens (or gardens, for that matter) in their backyard?
To many, this may seem like a small issue. But when municipalities choose to crush individual liberty, individuals tend to get crushed. Case in point – Andrew Wordes.
Small victories in places like Johnson City, Tennessee are victories for us all, and truly demonstrate the value in being active in local politics. For far too long cities and municipalities have taken measures to crush individual liberties in the name of ‘zoning,”eminent domain,’ and the like. Freedom-loving individuals everywhere should band together and take back their local governments. Then, move to the states, and beyond.
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About the author:
Scott received his MBA from East Tennessee State University in 1998 and married his wife, Kim, in
2002. They live in the hills of east Tennessee with their four small children. Scott and Kim blog about parenting, marriage, healthy lifestyle, nutrition, and homesteading atwww.amorefieldlife.com.