The Catoosa County News
wants chickens to have them, but he agreed that more study was needed.
District 3 Commissioner Vanita Hullander said the entire issue has been an emotional roller coaster for her and that she wants to see everyone’s rights protected. She said she wants to see people respecting one another more and discussing the issue in person more and less on social media. She told chicken supporters that she feels many of them are being exploited by those who have something to gain.
Black called for a second to Harris’ motion to table the issue. All commissioners except Long voted “yes;” Long voted “no.”
While people had spoken during the two-plus hour public hearing immediately before the regular meeting, they had a chance to speak again at the end.
The first speaker during public appearances was Katie Ware. She thanked people for coming out and supporting not just the chicken cause but liberty in general, and she chided the commissioners for falling back on personal opinion rather than definitions and knowledge.
Nick Ware was up next. He asked the commissioners to have Young, the county attorney, show him the code that says chickens are not allowed in R-1 zones.
“We’ve had a team of people,” Ware said, “looking for the code and we could not find where it’s located. Will you, Mr. Chairman, Larry Black, allow Chad to come up and give us that code?”
Black responded, “I think I stated earlier that it’s an interpretation of statute, which happens commonly with the law.”
“If the attorney has not shown you [the code],” Ware said, “you must question this attorney. Go by the law and what is shown to you, not what the attorney says, because that’s what makes you valuable to us. Otherwise, we have no use for you. We only have use for an attorney. You guys are the ones that represent us and protect us from the government. That’s why you are elected.”
Ware continued, “None of us want to be here. None of us want to spend endless nights going through code because a simpleton who is hired in this county to be able to interpret can’t even understand the definition of domesticated or non-domesticated. The rest of the people in the world understand it. Yet this is not what you’re fed.”
“You’re not listening to anyone but the attorney,” Ware told commissioners, “Have him show us that code.”
Kristi Ware told commissioners she thought tabling the issue was a good step. “What I’m hearing you say is we need to work together. But you need to consider who the ‘we’ is.” Ware said the “we” is not the commissioners, county attorney and government officials — it’s also the rest of the county.
“We’ve written a proposal,” Ware told commissioners. “It needs to be considered. I encourage you to speak to the citizens and work with us. We do have ideas that can help make this work.”
Adrianne Kittle spoke to the Board of Commissioners after Ware and continued the argument that no one had yet shown the code that prohibits chickens in R-1. “You cannot change the English language,” she said. “You cannot call a chicken a non-domesticated animal based on where it is living. It is a domesticated animal.”
“I have studied the UDC for ten months,” Kittle continued. “I am tired. “I’m telling you: Chickens are not illegal in R-1 as the UDC is written. They’re not. You cannot say they are. He (county attorney Young) cannot offer up a code. I’m tired of this.”
Fairly new to the chicken war controversy is Christina Lawson, a practicing attorney in Atlanta who recently bought land in Catoosa County and moved here. Lawson shared that she has been practicing law for more than 25 years. “I have been studying the UDC along with Ms. Kittle,” Lawson told commissioners. “I can’t find what the county attorney is relying upon.”
“There’s a problem with all R-1 being treated the same,” Lawson said. “I think we could reach a compromise if we step back and say ‘alright, there are some R-1 properties where it doesn’t make sense to regulate chickens. There may be some R-1 properties where it does make sense to regulate chickens.’”
“The problem is,” Lawson said, “when you have a statue that blanketly covers every single district even though they’re very different, it’s hard to reach a compromise. I suggest we come to a compromise that recognizes that different R-1 properties are different.”
Lawson said that could involve rezoning or other changes. She said it could provide certainty for the people who have been attending the meetings for months trying to protect their property and meet the needs of people in more densely populated neighborhoods.
Lawson also told commissioners she would be happy to work with any of them on the issue.
Tonya Rogers, who has been involved in the issue from the start and speaks at most meetings, spoke briefly. She said she agreed with the other speakers, reiterated that definitions cannot be changed and said, “I think you do need to work with us but I don’t think you’re wanting to work with us.”
Ray Blankenship, administrator of the Catoosa County Second Amendment Sanctuary Group, talked about the persistence it takes to protect rights. He said he’s been fighting for constitutional gun carry for 10 years. “The reason we got constitutional carry is because we didn’t compromise. We started electing officials that were actually going to help us.”
Chicken supporter Barbara Wilkey asked commissioners, “Have you read our proposal that we sent you? Have you?”
Wilkey asked if commissioners were listening. “We voted for you and not for him (county attorney Young),” she said. “You need to be listening to us. He needs to be listening to us.” Wilkey told commissioners they were not empowered to vote on the definition of words.
Rob Nolen, chair of the Catoosa County Democratic Party, shared his experience with the commissioners. He started by telling them and the county attorney that he understood they have tough jobs. He said he disagreed with some of the criticism of them coming from previous speakers at the meeting.
But, Nolen said, there seems to be a communication divide. “We asked, ‘please show us what your interpretation is’ and the answer we received this evening was ‘yes,’ But ‘yes’ is not an interpretation. ‘Yes’ is not expanding upon the information available in the UDC.”
Nolen said that answers people were receiving lacked substance and that people were met repeatedly with silence or non-answers.
Nolen said that while he understands that residents have gotten up and said some “really harsh things” to commissioners, “I will be really honest that a lot of the things, Mr. Chairman, that the board has said to other people have also been pretty nasty.”
Nolen then shared a personal experience. He said he reached out by email to share his thoughts. He read aloud the response he got from his commissioner. “Mr. Nolen, Have you ever considered acting civil and sitting down with the planning committee and the commissioners? All we have been met with is hostility, unfounded accusations and disrespectful comments. Emails are not the way to resolve issues. You can call me and ask for a face-to-face meeting.”
Nolen arranged a meeting and said that he and his commissioner spoke for nearly two hours. “It was a really good conversation,” but at one point his commissioner said to him, “you know, I didn’t have to give you this meeting, but I felt out of the goodness of my heart I needed to do so.”
“People are getting up to say what they think,” said Nolen to the commissioners, “and they are unarguably being met with hostility.”
Nolen reiterated his frustration with the lack of substantive conversation and real answers.
Adam Whitescarver told commissioners, “When I come at you, it’s with things. It’s not personal. I believe in ‘we the people.’ You are not my boss — you work for me, as a collective. That’s how government works. I tell my employees, ‘I’ll be your friend but I would not have hired you unless I was fully prepared to fire you.’ I will do everything in my power to get rid of you if you refuse to listen and give feedback to people.”
Whitescarver questioned the position of the county attorneys as contract workers and not regular employees who can be accountable for conflicts of interest. “I will not back down until you fix some things,” he said.
Stephanie Whitescarver closed out the comments time by asking chairman Black if she could pray. She recited “The Lord’s Prayer” from the Bible.