County residents seeking to keep chickens in the backyards of Paulding neighborhoods got a one-month reprieve last week.
Commissioners voted to delay action until April 28 on Dallas resident Jennifer Farrell’s request to amend the county zoning law to allow keeping hens in fenced backyards of residences on less than 5 acres of land, like her property.
In front of numerous audience members wearing yellow in support of Farrell, the board of commissioners voted 4-1 to table the request despite the planning commission and planning department staff recommending denial of the change earlier in the day.
Commissioner Todd Pownall, in whose district Farrell resides, said he agreed residents “should be able to do some things” if they own land but he needed more time to learn about the subject.
“I feel like we’ve got a few more things we could look at before we give an answer, whatever answer that may be,” he said.
Chairman David Austin said he had concerns the county’s marshal department, which enforces animal control laws, will be stretched thin by additional complaints about chickens.
“Not everybody will be as responsible as you are,” he told Farrell. “[Chickens] end up on other people’s porches and end up being a problem.
“There are great folks that do a wonderful job and then there are people who spoil all the apples in the barrel,” he said. “Those are the ones we have to be careful we make [the law] as strong as we can.”
Austin also said state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told a planning staff member he had concerns about the spread of avian flu to chickens in Georgia.
Farrell said after the meeting many Paulding residents are keeping the birds in their backyards illegally. If Black has concerns about the spread of disease, changing the law will encourage reporting of any problems while confining any potential outbreak to small, segregated flocks, she said.
“If there was an outbreak in Georgia, we would want people to be forthcoming,” she said.
Farrell added she hoped commissioners will consider how backyard chicken ownership in residential neighborhoods in other nearby counties, such as Cherokee, has worked.
Farrell, who lives in a neighborhood with lots smaller than 5 acres, said she wants to be able to keep hens because they serve as pets, produce eggs and can serve an educational purpose. She said she asked for a change in the zoning law to give all county residents the same chance as her family to raise the animals.
Opponents have cited possible noise and odor problems and a negative effect on property values. Farrell said noise will not be a factor because her plan does not allow roosters and chicken houses will not have any more effect on property values than other animals.
For the Hart family, it was a leap of faith moving to Paulding County.
The family of five would be leaving friends and family in Olympia, Wash., to set out on an adventure that seemed almost too risky in light of the news they heard just less than two weeks earlier.
Their 3-year-old son Matthew had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
But Jayson Hart said he and his wife Dawn prayed about their decision to move to Georgia and took that leap of faith. They packed up their house and headed cross country, moving merely 10 days after Hart accepted a teaching position at Paulding County High School, a job he started two days after the family arrived.
And while they have only been in Paulding County since August, they are already seeing the rewards of trusting that decision.
“We chose to be faithful, and we feel like we’ve been so blessed to find this community,” Hart said.
This is because the Hart family has found itself in need, as Matthew’s prior diagnosis of a benign brain tumor has since escalated to it being a rare, cancerous tumor.
Matthew’s treatments at Children’s Healthcare at Scottish Rite and Egleston and the Winship Cancer Institute, all in Atlanta, require Hart to miss a lot of work. Hart has run out of vacation and sick days, so each time he misses a day, he loses that income.
A fellow teacher, Dawn Blount, decided to pull together the community to help this family in need.
She said in other school districts, fellow employees can contribute their own sick days to a catastrophic leave bank to be used in such cases as Hart’s. But making that kind of policy change in Paulding County would take too long and Hart needed help right away.
“One morning, I feel like the Lord laid on my heart,” Blount said. “He just said, ‘5K.’”
She said a 5K fundraiser is a great way to spark interest not just in the county but in surrounding counties, as well. Since overhead is low for races, nearly all the money raised will go directly to the Harts, barring a few minor expenses.
The Race for the Harts 5K and fun run is set for April 18 at Paulding County High School, with the 5K beginning at 8:30 a.m. and a one-mile fun run starting at 8:45 a.m. Registration for both is $25 and can be completed online at www.racefortheharts.com.
Those who do not want to race but would like to donate can also do so online.
There will also be activities for children, such as bounce houses and face painting during the event.
Blount may not know Hart very well — both are new to Paulding County High this year — and she has never met his family. But she said she could not stand knowing there was a problem and not helping.
“It’s not like we’ve been teaching together for a very long time,” she said. “He teaches two doors down from me and as I walk past his room, I can’t help but think we have to do something.”
She said Hart’s spirit in light of this struggle is inspiring. But Hart said he is drawing on the spirit of his son.
“He is so positive, so happy,” he said. “Every morning at radiation, he would be walking through the halls saying Hi to people, singing songs. Sometimes the drugs affect his mood, but he is definitely an inspiration to all of us.”
Matthew has two older siblings, Henry, 6, and Libby, 5.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal From left, activities coordinator Gail Cross and webmaster Dick Cross, both of Cobb County; and Sue Gregory and road captain Clarence Gregory, both of Douglas County, are members of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association. This 2010 Honda GL1800 belongs to Dick Cross.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal From left, assistant chapter director Shirley Morris, chapter director Dean Watts, Candace Watts and Steven Barnes, all of Paulding County, ride with the Gold Wing Road Riders Association.
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