Planning Commission Limits Squawk About Chickens

Cape Charles Wave

February 10, 2014

Part-time residents Sheryl and Paul Eulitt drove down from Baltimore February 4 for one purpose: to tell members of the Cape Charles Planning Commission that they oppose allowing chickens to be kept in town. Sheryl Eulitt said they intend to retire here, and don’t want any chickens in their neighborhood.

After Eulitt spoke for 3 minutes, Planning Commission Chair Dennis McCoy gave her a 20-second warning:

McCOY: 20 seconds.

EULITT: I’m sorry?

McCOY: 20 seconds.

EULITT: Oh – oh really? Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t know.

McCOY: You have a 3-minute time limit. You’ve now gone to 3:13.

And 20 seconds later the gong sounded. The Eulitts returned to Baltimore the same night. No other member of the public spoke.

CLICK HERE to listen to Eulitt’s presentation to the Planning Commission.

Eulitt asked why the current ordinance that excludes the keeping of farm animals in town has not been enforced. Town Planner Rob Testerman said that the chickens have been allowed to stay while an ordinance is being drafted with the thought that it would be wrong to send them away only to later allow them.

Eulitt maintained that chickens are not pets. She said the chickens wake them in the morning and create an unpleasant odor.

Noting her surprise at being stopped mid-sentence, Commissioner Mike Strub explained to the Eulitts that the Planning Commissioners would take what she said under advisement even though they would not respond directly to her.

The Commission is considering the pros and cons of allowing residents to keep a few chickens, and may propose a revised ordinance.  A public hearing would then be held to further assess residents’ feelings.

Four of the six Planning Commissioners present at the meeting reside in Bay Creek, and they noted that any ordinance the town might pass allowing chickens would not apply In Bay Creek. Indeed, no action the Planning Commission takes on any subject applies inside Bay Creek. The four Bay Creek residents are Chairman Dennis McCoy, Joan Natali, Sandra Salopek, and Bill Stramm.

The commissioners asked Town Planner Testerman to continue his review of other municipalities’ chicken ordinances for further discussion at the next meeting.


In other business, the Planning Commission sent a draft proposal for a Historic Town Entrance Overlay District proposal to the Northampton County Board of Supervisors for consideration. However, neither the current county zoning ordinance nor the county’s new draft ordinance includes an historic town entrance overlay district, and county zoning plans are to do away with all overlay districts entirely.

The idea behind an Historic Town Edge Overlay District was to protect commerce in the town from adjoining development that could hurt town businesses.

The Town of Cape Charles is paying the Accomack-Northampton County Planning District Commission  $8,600 to suggest revisions to the town’s Comprehensive Plan. Testerman said he is working with the organization to schedule public input sessions on the Plan.



15 Responses to “Planning Commission Limits Squawk About Chickens”

  1. Wayne Creed on February 10th, 2014 2:41 pm

    Although I am generally pro-chicken and egg, Sheryl and Paul Eulitt, as property owners, have a valid point, and bring up a significant dilemma. If the Town does indeed allow chicken farming in Cape Charles, does this in fact render the existing farm animal/livestock ordinance null and void? For example, what if someone wished to raise goats in Cape Charles? Whatever benefits a pro-chicken contingent may bring forth, goats actually bring as much or more to the table (milk, cheese, meat, brush/lawn control and more). Seems like the precedent being set is that all you have to do is stick a Saanen goat in your back yard and just wait for the Town to adjust the ordinance. If you allow chickens, why not goats? Or llamas for that matter? Don’t get me wrong, I love chickens, but one has to wonder, in a Town this small, with yards being so close, if it is fair to the property owners that do not wish to see, hear, or smell domesticated fowl, to have a coop right next door.

  2. Deborah Bender on February 10th, 2014 3:21 pm

    The people who seem to be controlling all of this don’t even live in the Historic District. Maybe if they thought they could have chickens living next door to THEM they would think twice about it. The people making decisions about the Historic District should LIVE in the Historic District. I also thought it was so nice that they held fast to the three-minute rule with people that came all the way from Baltimore to voice opposition.

  3. Thomas D. Giese on February 10th, 2014 4:32 pm

    The next thing you know, this town council will start allowing children within the town limits. You will know this has happened by the for sale sign in my front yard.

  4. Dana Lascu on February 10th, 2014 7:39 pm

    We should be grateful to Sheryl and Paul Eulitt for driving midweek from Baltimore to make their opposition to backyard chickens known, and to the Wave for giving them the platform they deserve. People, please don’t lose yourselves in a bucolic fantasy that belongs strictly in a pastoral setting. The only domesticated pets we need in town are those with sufficient initiative to jump over the fence and devour backyard chickens.

  5. Thomas Haney on February 11th, 2014 7:40 pm

    As someone who recently moved to Cape Charles and has owned chickens for most of my adult life for the eggs (not the companionship), I’m surprised how hostile the comments seem to be to the idea. Egg laying hens, as opposed to roosters, make very little noise, and 3 or 4 of them don’t make any “odor” at all, and I’d much rather hear a few muted clucks coming from next door than the incessant barking of dogs I hear every time I leave the house. Not to mention, they pose no danger to anyone, unlike dogs, and home-grown eggs are far better than store-bought. After reading the article, I thought the comments would be entirely opposed to someone driving down from another state to complain about someone providing food for their family, so it was a bit of a surprise.

  6. Marita Patterson on February 12th, 2014 6:22 pm

    “Urban chickens” (but not roosters) are allowed in New York City, Denver, Houston, Seattle, St Louis, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.

    I’m sure they are legal in many more metropolitan areas, but I stopped looking.

    I would imagine that the “yards” are even “closer” in those towns than in Cape Charles.

    Interesting note: Of the towns I Googled, only Washington D.C. prohibits backyard chickens.

  7. Deborah Bender on February 13th, 2014 7:42 am

    I see foxes all the time in Cape Charles. Bring on the chickens — the foxes are hungry.

  8. Wayne Creed on February 14th, 2014 9:51 am

    Mrs. Patterson brings up a valid point about urban chicken farming, which is part of the urban agriculture movement that is taking hold all across the country. In NYC, the raising of fowl has been going on since the early 1900s (I am of Italian decent, and I can vouch for many of my relatives in Brooklyn that had birds in the back yard).

    I would still be careful about putting our town in that category; Cape Charles would hardly constitute a neighborhood in Chicago, and there are apartment buildings in NYC that have more people than our entire town. I also doubt you are going to find many chicken coops in Manhattan, Wicker Park or the South Loop. I was just in Atlanta, and you would be hard pressed to find a chicken coop in Buckhead. Chickens may be legal, but you’re not going to find them in areas where location equates to real value ($$$).

    Can you imagine the Cape Charles HGTV episode, “Oh yes, you’re only five minutes from the beach, this classic four square has 3 bedrooms, two full baths, and a great yard with these charming chicken coops on either side!”

    I guess it all comes to good old fashion consideration for other people. I personally am in favor of urban chicken farming, yet I understand that there are other people who are not.

    So much of the discontent around here derives from a political and social disconnect. Of the 14 people who are involved in determining the fate of properties in the Historic District (such as chickens), 7 of them live Bay Creek. In other words, there is a lack of accountability, and they can create policy that they do not have to adhere to (approve chicken houses in the HD, but ban them in Bay Creek).

    Special cases that effect property values should require special data.

    It seems we should contract Dana Lascu to conduct a survey and produce some real data about how folks in the Historic District really feel about domesticated fowl in Town (by contract, I mean she will do it for free ). If the data says 60% or more are in favor, than chickens it is! That’s not too hard, is it?

  9. Dana Lascu on February 14th, 2014 5:26 pm

    Happy to do it.

  10. Kathleen Rouse on February 15th, 2014 9:40 am

    I would suggest that Dana Lascu NOT be asked to take a survey of the opinions of the Historic District residents re: chickens in the backyard. She has already expressed her opinion in earlier comments here, and would not be able to be impartial, as a survey-taker should. This is my opinion of course, but I, being in favor of a few chickens in the yard, would not do a survey either, lest I influence the opinions of those who are asked.

  11. Jennifer Corcoran on February 15th, 2014 4:13 pm

    What is most bothersome is the opening reference to the Eulitts as part-timers. Does this make their appeal to the town any less significant? Does the town have any less value of their investments here? Doesn’t the town collect the same amount of taxes and town fees from them as from those that live in Cape Charles full-time? Does this mean that only a full-time resident can disobey any of rules that the town is enforcing, if it is a clear benefit only for themselves? The town had already told them they could not have the chickens — they did it anyway.

    It is also disturbing that the Eulitts were not informed of the time limits on a presentation. Any good, fair, and intelligent commission would want to be sure they had all the information so that they could make an informed, factual decision.

    The regulations were disregarded and someone does not seem to have a problem with it. So why should any of us follow the rules? We all want to make Cape Charles the best town it can be.

  12. John Lange on February 15th, 2014 5:26 pm

    So, two people from the People’s Republic of Maryland drive all the way down to the Eastern Shore to tell the Town of Cape Charles that they, as newcomers, don’t want chickens in their neighborhood. I think that what is really happening is they are moving, on a permanent basis, into some other people’s neighborhood where there are already chickens. I find it ironic that people are escaping the socialist state of Maryland in droves but many pack not only their belongings but the same politics and social sensitivities that created the cesspool from which they are escaping. Then, in their new setting, they go about infecting the social structure of their new environment to match the old, and the dominoes keep on falling ad nauseum. That this couple began their activism before the welcome wagon even got a chance to visit their home comes close to the definition of chutzpah.

    When we moved to the Eastern Shore more than two decades ago we acquired chickens for our six-year-old daughter to raise. The chicken coop was set up in a shed not five feet from our kitchen window. I can’t recall any smell offending our olfactory receptors, i.e. they didn’t stink. This couple doesn’t want their guests smelling chickens when they entertain in their back yard. Anybody living in a town such as Cape Charles with houses in close proximity to each other knows the serenity and peaceful atmosphere of a back yard party. This couple must have experienced something special about the Eastern Shore that caused them to want to leave their home in merry old Maryland. If it was just like home they probably wouldn’t move here. If the Eastern Shore starts bending to the political and social whims of refugees from the rotting, corroding societies to the North, and it allows that infecting influence to overwhelm the Shore, we will soon be indistinguishable from that which is failing and the chickens will have come home to roost.

  13. Dana Lascu on February 16th, 2014 3:42 pm

    Outsiders dictating to the residents of the Cape Charles Historic District to live next to loud and gross backyard chickens is indeed the definition of chutzpah. And the Eulitts are NOT the outsiders.

  14. Dick Valack on February 17th, 2014 7:12 am

    I’m not in the chicken debate but think that Sherry and Paul have been treated rather shabbily by people that don’t know them. Out of common courtesy they should have been informed of the time limit. They are good neighbors, have made great improvements to their property and are frequently here (much more than most part-timers).
    They are good for Cape Charles, the kind of folks we need as permanent residents.

  15. Susan Bauer on February 17th, 2014 2:28 pm

    Mr. Lange, I do not blame you for your tirade against the Eulitts, and the rest of the 5.8 million citizens of the State of Maryland you feel compelled to malign. No sir. The fault lies squarely with the public school system for its failure to devote sufficient resources to good old high school civics. Requesting the town to simply enforce an existing zoning regulation that prohibits livestock within the residential areas of Cape Charles does not make the Eulitts Communists. In fact they are just availing themselves of the democratic right to request their elected officials to ensure residents comply with existing regulations. Residents who disregard the zoning regulations are Anarchists. Don’t get me wrong, anarchy in support of a moral imperative is the American way. However, you would be hard pressed to convince me that the desire to have backyard chickens is tantamount to, say, the Boston Tea Party. Those folks need to be schooled in the legislative process. You don’t like a zoning regulation? In a representative democracy, the way you seek legislative change is to convince a duly elected official to propose an ordinance that you like and if a majority of the elected officials who actually have said legislative authority agree, then the regulation would be amended and you can have your chickens. The Eulitts have resided in Cape Charles, albeit on a part time basis, for a decade, long before the chickens took up residence. Check your facts, and educate yourself on the zoning regulations in our town (not yours), and for heavens sake, don’t define olfactory for us. We know what stinks.