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4/15/09

CHICKUNZ Went To Visit The Board of Supervisors.

CHICKUNZ went to pay a visit to Henrico's Board of Supervisors last night. We waited over five grueling hours to be heard. You see, last year when I raised the issue for Henrico county to consider more sustainable strategies and allow residents to have laying hens, the response was a resounding, "We will not address this issue, it has been decided."

So here it is, spring again, and I decided to take another tactic: use the public comment period to show that their constituents really do want laying hens and more sustainable rights to produce their own food, responsibly, in residential back yards.

Of course the night in question was one of the most contentious, emotional, and long meetings of the year! Yes it was loooooooooong. And I had a fever. But ultimately I was glad to witness the large participation of citizens, having public discourse with their representatives, and, even when I differ in opinion, give kudos to the Board of Supervisors for all their hard work and deep commitment to their community.

As I mentioned, it was AFTER ELEVEN P.M. when we finally rose to speak.

By then, there were about ten of us. I only knew two of the parties, so please, if you were there, please comment and introduce yourself so we can find you again, and please join FaceBook's CHICKUNZ page to stay connected and aware of next steps locally.

First, I spoke. Fortunately for you I can't remember what I said. I do recall I mentioned that like many of the families there tonight, I too was a mother, there to speak for her family's best interests, that it was critical to feed the mind with good education (many had spoken in favor of new schools), but to not forget it was just as important to feed our bodies with good food, and that in these dire economic times constituents deserve the right to be as sustainable as possible.

I mentioned that they needn't re-invent the wheel: just copy zoning that is in effect in cities and counties throughout the United States- including L.A., Brooklyn, Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, and more!

Next, George Lansing spoke about the awards his family company, Days of Old Herb Farm, won at the Maymont Flower and Garden Show for his Victory Egg Garden which contained, yes, a coop and hens. Thousands of garden enthusiasts saw that award-winning garden, yet most likely none of them could legally have that sustainable, egg-producing garden!

Next, (please forgive me I did not write your names down and if you contact me I will change this accordingly!) a woman spoke about her desire for poultry, that it didn't make sense that zoning requires a coop to be set back from homes 400 feet away (over a football field length!) when a chicken only needs 10 square feet of space.

A gentleman spoke about how, in his public policy class at the University of Richmond, he chose the topic of local food production and was concerned about our community's sustainability, that while studying hunger and disaster preparation, he believed that by allowing residents to be sustaininable they would be preparing their constituents for the coming years of tough economic times and threats to food production globally.

A woman stood up.

"I want to tell you that those predictions of which he just spoke are not in coming years, they are NOW. I have lost my job. My husband has taken a ten percent pay cut to keep his job. We want to eat well. We can not afford organic eggs. Please allow us to feed ourselves by granting us the right to have chickens, to provide ourselves with sustenance."

This woman and all the others in our community in the same situation are why I'm fighting.

It would be easy to surreptitiously have my laying hens. But the larger issue is that our community NEEDS and deserves the right to be sustainable and self-supporting as possible.

Our comment period closed with Mrs. Lansing reminding the board that there have been no avian flu cases transferred from chickens to humans, and that we ask for responsible zoning, not large flocks of messy birds.

Well, we spoke. The Board of Supervisors listened. Now let's make sure they heard.

As Mr. Lansing points out in his email regarding last night:
"I didn't get in until 1am. The Henrico Board of Supervisors heard about five of the dozen people who attended, but we had to wait until 11pm to speak.

I closed by asking them if any of them wanted to lead the other metropolitan areas of central VA by making a motion tonight to amend the zoning laws. The Chairman of the board seemed a little surprised at my assertiveness and said that would be subject to the zoning boards recommendations and no one made a motion. I do believe we have some real support here but I also do not believe anything will happen until enough noise is made by Henrico citizens voicing their concern about changing zoning guidelines.

The time is NOW to get Henrico to make these changes, take this momentum to the other counties and watch free Americans take greater control of their gastrointestinal future! ; )

Here's what we need to do:
  • When I or one of you have time, post the names, emails, and phone numbers of all the members of the board.
  • Generate grass roots efforts NOW to contact the county supervisor in your area to make these changes.. This can be email, snail mail, phone, or in person. Be polite and give some solid reasons why this would benefit both the county and their citizens.
  • If you don't live in the county, try to call someone you know who does, and have them contact their supervisor.
We have a base of activists to help direct this change throughout central VA. The momentum is building, but we need the help of many more. Everyone does not have to attend board meetings into the night, but please do what you can. You would be surprised to realize how few people it takes to make real change. I will try to comment with more detailed info in a couple of days when it is not 1am.

George Lansing"
Copeland's note: The list of Henrico Board of Supervisors and their contact information may be found here: http://www.co.henrico.va.us/supervisors/

Please contact them now, tell them what sustainable urban livestock means to you, how it can help our community, and that their constituents DO support the right to responsible, small scale food production!

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4 Comments:

At 4/15/09, 10:00 AM , Anonymous hbarber@toposllc.net said...

Kudos to you Copeland and those who stuck it out last night. I have pneumonia and am on lockdown. This is a win win argument in the sustainable ring. Waste becomes fertilizer, chickens produce better and faster with a rich organic diet...i.e. a little free range in the vege garden occasionally.

I will contact my Hen County (hic) rep right now.

Thanks, h

 
At 4/15/09, 10:55 AM , Anonymous Eva said...

I can't help with the Board of Supervisors since I'm not a resident, but I wholeheartedly support your efforts. Hopefully your good work will filter up here to Fairfax County.

 
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