Eldorado homeowners organize Hensforth group to fight for the future of our community
We are Hensforth. We are fighting to defend our property rights and to preserve Eldorado as the tolerant friendly place that it was when we moved here and can become again.
We had all hoped that the GREAT CHICKEN CONTROVERSY would go away or be solved through mediatrion or consensus. But alas, the ECIA Board has made the decision to use Eldorado assessment funds to file suit against pet hen owners. After a year of debate and controversy, the Board simply abdicated it's duty to resolve this fairly and gave the lawyer carte blanche to sue a few hand picked families. The Association assessment fees will be used to cover the ECIA lawyer's costs while the individuals unfairly targeted will have to pay their own defense costs. We are asking the community to help. If you only give $20 it will help. Whatever you can do will be greatly appreciated. This is an easy way to make your voice heard.
WHERE IT STARTED: Last year, a small group of residents began pressuring the ECIA and staff to cite other residents who were known to have pet hens. Not one of these citations alleged a nuisance of any kind but only cited the mere existence of backyard hens. Many of these cited families have kept pet hens for many years in the privacy of their own back yards and had never had a problem but suddenly, anonymous complaints were filed. This provoked a discussion in the community about what our pet covenant said, what it meant and if indeed hens could be pets. The ECIA attorney gave the opinion that the covenant was open to interpretation so an ad hoc committee was formed to come up with a survey taking the temperature of the community on the issue. The anti chicken residents were not happy with that step so pressured the ECIA to skip the survey and to go immediately to a covenant vote. A covenant vote was conducted that sought to give the community a clear choice. An amendment that expressly allowed chickens as pets and one that expressly forbid them were offered. 848 people voted for amendment A which allowed hens as pets, 999 voted for amendment B that dis-allowed them and 946 did not vote at all. Neither of the amendments received 50% + 1 votes required by our bylaws so the vote to change the covenant failed and has no impact on the interpretation problem.
Soon after the failed vote the residents who were determined to rid Eldorado of pet hens began personally threatening the ECIA board if they did not continue the process of citations.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY:
The ECIA has filed suit against 7 lot ownerts that have pet hens in their backyard. There are 2 more residents who have received "violation" notices and will be added to the suit if they refuse to give up their pets - which they will never do. One owner who had chickens and a variance heard and tabled in June of 2011 is only now being included in the group. These brave people are willing to stand up for what is right and fight for all of our personal property rights. And stand against the overreach of power by the ECIA board and staff.
We in Hensforth believe that the current pet covenant as written allows individual choice and see nothing in the covenants or bylaws that that empowers the ECIA board and staff the power to make the choice for us. We believe that it is wrong to waste our assessment fees to sue other lot owners for such a questionable reason. We believe that this entire controversy is about much more than pet hens. It is about our right to live quietly and freely on our own property. A few families are being targeted unfairly and are being forced to fight the overreach of the board for all of us. We ask for your assistance.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Donate! You can use your credit or debit card through Paypal here:
- stay informed! Join our mail list and stay informed of new developments or of important BOARD meetings so you can make your voice heard
-Make your voice heard! Educate yourself about the situation and let the board know how you feel. Write letters and make telephone calls to the board members to let them know how you feel.
-help spread the word. Write letters to the editor. Talk to your neighbors.
Thanks for your help!
ANOTHER HOT SHOT FROM THE ELDORADO COMMUNITY CANON.... a satire by Greg Colello
WHY'S SOMEBODY TRYIN TO TAKE MY CHICKS AWAY? (THE HELL YOU SAY. THAT'LL BE THE DAY.)
(The Incredibly Strange Case of Xubi Wilsonian)
Yep. And thar ole 'Xubi the Wilsonian' was back in the Great Spring of 2011, tending to his livestock, whilst a-readin from the good book 'Sustainable Lot Livin', when all of a sudden there commenst the dang awfulest commotion. It was angelic Brother 'Mark, Only Doing My Job Too Well, the Younger' a-comin to call, whilst trumpeting his Gabriel Horn, such that ole Xubi thought his time most surely had come. Behindst Brother Mark was a host of lesser angelics a-carryin a golden chest encrusted with the finest of jewels, atop it two great middle fingers a-pointin skywards from their otherwise clenched fists, and the whole of it a-sparklin' in a beam from on-high that followed it like a great god's eye. Amongst the host was angelic first class 'Rich the Goldshine', 'IClaudia the Dayglow', and a passel of others from the holy angelic gilder hall 'In Search of Eldorado Action'.
When all had arrived, and with the chest nearby, Brother Mark laid down his Gabriel Horn and began to speak to ole Xubi "Thou hast transgressed against our most holy Ark of the Covenants", whilst he piously gestured towards the golden bejeweled chest. Ole Xubi saw first the two golden middle fingers facing him directly and felt their holy wrath like a screw into his soul, a-causin him to wonder at their power. Ole Xubi cried out, "Why hast thou brought forth the great power of our holy Ark unto my lot of sustainable livin?"
ARK OF THE COVENANTS
Mark replied, "Nay. Thou hast created a lot of distainable slitherin, because thou hast chosen to bring unto thy land a flock of unrecognized feathered beasts, a gateway to the dreaded Curse of the Livestock, without having sought a Seal of Variance from our most holy enclave the great E-Z-Eye-Ache, as thou agreedst when thou signst in thy own blood its Contract of Lot Souls. But thou art fortunate indeed. Our most compassionate Divinity of Immaculate Compliance, 'William Dunninghew the Elder', hast instructed me thou art to be given the Opportunity of Redemption. Thou must now amend this grievance against our blessed Ark of the Covenants with the Form of Variance upon which thou will place thy plea."
But ole Xubi was most confused. He said, "I have read our Ark of Covenants most holey. Their true meaning has been revealed and compliant is my household. For cast upon my lot is nothing but pets in most reasonable numbers and not for market. Thus Brother Mark, instead I need a Form of Wrong Interpretation to convey my revelations to our EZ- Eye-Ache consecrated Bored of No Directions for their grace of corrected understanding." Brother Mark was most aggrieved, and he told ole Xubi in the sternest voice, "Such a Form exists not. Thou canst use only the Form of Variance to plea unto our consecrated Bored."
And so ole Xubi cast his plea for corrected understanding upon the Form of Variance to be conveyed unto the Elder of the Bored, 'Edward the Morono'. He added this final verse, "Why's somebody tryin to take my chicks away? The hell you say. That'll be the day".
Afterwards ole Xubi's heart was most troubled, as he told Brother Mark, "I fear the company of E-Z-Eye-Ache will think I have submitted a Variance of Law, which will require the scrutiny of 'John the Haze', our great Wizard of Justice." To which Brother Mark replied, "I only do my job". "Perhaps too well", said ole Xubi. [And that is the part of this tale on how Brother Mark attained his full appellation 'Mark, Only Doing My Job Too Well, the Younger']
But as ole Xubi had a-feared the company of E-Z-Eye-Ache did indeed believe him to have submitted a Variance of Law, and that also being sworn to by William Dunninghew the Elder, the consecrated Bored put the Form of Variance upon the Table of John the Haze for his consumption, whereupon much time passed. At length John the Haze proclaimed, "Ambiguity is great. I cannot decide. The lowly owners of lots must speak forth." Also Rich the Goldshine made clear the duty of the Bored was not to judge themselves upon the Ark of Covenants lest he see them pilloried in the Docket of the Dammed.
Thus ole Xubi's plea for corrected understanding languished upon the Table of the Bored in the Vacuum of Misunderstanding. Then finally in the Great Fall of 2012, 'Jean the Calzone' was brought upon the consecrated Bored of No Directions. She was most eager to clear its Table of its many Items of No Decision, which had become cluttered upon it. Whereupon ole Xubi's plea for corrected understanding, but written upon the Form of Variance, was taken off the Table of the consecrated Bored for their final consideration. Whereupon the consecrated Bored did finally gain understanding that the Form of Variance was but the only vessel for Xubi to place his plea for a corrected understanding to the Ark of the Covenants, and was not in fact a submission for a true Variance of Law. Further some great wisdom came into their minds from on high that the Variance of Law could not be applied in any case to crawling things upon one's lot.
THE GREAT TABLE OF THE BORED OF NO DECISIONS
Whereupon the consecrated Bored in their divine wisdom ruled forever to do nothing, say nothing, and hear nothing more about this subject; which greatly fell with favor upon the unibrow of Rich the Goldshine. And thus it was left to the Bored's most compassionate Divinity of Immaculate Compliance, William Dunninghew the Elder, and his great Wizard of Justice, John the Haze, to do as they both saw fit upon all lowly owners of lots, attempting concealment of feathered livestock; when such vile concealment was revealed unto them by hidden angelic spirits inhabiting the sacred gilder hall 'In Search of Eldorado Action'. But as the fates would have it, once again ole Xubi fell from consideration, and was not selected for their awful countenance. Not so was the fate of the "Lots Of Four", being now pilloried in the Docket of the Dammed.
And thus to this day ole Xubi stands upon his lot, tending his pet feathered flock of reasonable numbers and not for market, whilst a-readin from his good book 'Sustainable Lot Livin', awaitin the dreaded day of notice from E-Z-Eye-Ache, causing him to rime yet again, "Why's somebody tryin to take my chicks away? The hell you say. That'll be the day".
(…Tune in next time for another tail shot from the Eldorado Community Cannon)
Click here to download a pdf of this story...
The Correct Interpretation of the Pet Covenant
The covenants are important to us in Eldorado. They help us keep the community beautiful, and well cared for. We all agree to them when we purchase our homes. But this idea that is believed by some that the covenants specifically prohibit poultry is flat false. There may be some ambiguity in the definition of pets - but it does not prohibit poultry per se.
The phrase in the covenants is "no animals, birds or poultry" and it treats all animals, birds and poultry the same. There is no distinction. Specific animals, birds or poultry are either all allowed, or none allowed. It does not say animals, birds, but no poultry. And it does not matter if an animal could be treated as livestock or called livestock in other situations. It does not distinquish between pets versus livestock. It says "animals, birds or poultry" - all one phrase - all treated the same. Instead of listing the animals allowed, it lists the requirements that must be met to allow that animal, bird or poultry. In my view this is a good way to do a pets policy as it allows for the maximum freedom for individual choice but at the same time prevents any possible nuisance.
The pets covenants says "no animals, birds or poultry" are allowed except "recognized household pets". To determine if that particular animal or chicken can be considered a pet the following is required:
•kept as a pet (assumes no killing and good care)
•for pleasure and use of the occupants
•no commercial use
Later in the covenants animals are again mentioned and the additional requirements are added:
•No unsightly structures
•Nothing of any kind unsightly
Animals, birds and poultry are treated exactly the same in the covenants. It does not say that animals are allowed but poultry is not. No particular living creature is allowed or disallowed. Instead, it gives the conditions under which any animals, birds or poultry may be kept or used. Note that large animals, larger than a large dog as a past president of the ECIA said, would not be allowed as it would be impossible to have no sight. No grazing animals would be allowed as that would create sights, smells and sounds. The assertions that the Board and others are trying to promote livestock or farming or ranching in Eldorado are absurd. The covenants clearly say no commercial use and no nuisance and we all accept that. Thus livestock in the usual sense of the word would not be allowed. But hens can be dual purpose animals, and could be considered pets in the situation of meeting all of the covenant's requirements.
There is not an absolute prohibition against poultry. To say that would also mean an absolute prohibition against all animals and birds and poultry. Animals, birds and poultry are treated the same - they have to meet the requirement of being a recognized household pet and obey all the restrictions and nuisance requirements.
So I support families in Eldorado choosing for themselves what animals, birds or poultry they want to own and care for as pets. A few backyard well cared for hens used as part of an edible garden could be a wonderful part of a home. Hens are small, friendly, trainable, quiet and clean if managed properly. Hens are not considered any differently in the covenants than any other animal. I think it was wise of the original writers of the covenants to specify pets as a set of conditions rather than a list of animals so that gives the residents of Eldorado freedom of choice while still protecting others from any possible nuisance.
Comparing property values in places that allow hens
(The information below is readily available on the internet for anyone who is willing to spend the time and energy. It may vary from year to year and from source to source but not that much. It is incomplete but it certainly speaks volumes about what factors affect house values (certainly not hen keeping). Somebody may want to research the variables truly affecting home values. I have been told that the qualities of public schools (think Eldorado Community School) and of community life are the most important ones.)
|CITY/TOWN||MEDIAN HOUSE VALUE/SALE PRICE||MEDIAN INCOME||DENSITY per sq mile||AVERAGE NET WORTH|
|Solana Beach, CA||929,060||138,162||3,550||907,951|
|Atherton, CA||2.4 - 4 mil||Over 2 mil||1,369.5||?|
|Los Altos, CA||1.4 mil||183,289||4466.8||?|
|Hillsborough, CA||1.45 mil||263,456||1,700||?|
…there are many more … … … …
--7 out of 10 cities on Forbes Magazine's "Most Desirable Cities" List for 2010 allow Backyard Chickens--
Some web sites consulted: mongabay.com, city-data.com, Forbes, Wikipedia, American Towns.com, local real estate companies and the respective town's ordinances on their own web sites. )
Eldorado's neighbors have had chicken and other backyard animals for at least 25-30 years and the value of our homes increased until the economic downturn of 2008. http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/29/markets/markets_newyork/index.htm
Those worried about the devaluation of our homes should better keep watch on the Economy rather than worrying about what our neighbors do in the privacy of their walled/fenced backyard.
I personally worry about water scarcity in a fast and continuous heating and drying of the Southwest. That is, global warming and the continuous drought condition of our region will certainly (negatively) affect our environment, our living conditions and thus the value of our homes. We may want to have forums about the ongoing economic and environmental crises, both of planetary proportions. They seem to be the 2 most important factors affecting our lives, especially in the Southwest.
Prepared by Eduardo Krasilovsky, 17 Lucero Road
The covenant reads:
"Section 11. Household Pets. No animals, birds or poultry shall be kept or maintained on any lot, except recognized household pets which may be kept thereon in reasonable numbers as pets for the pleasure and use of the occupants but not for any commercial use or purpose."
You cannot stop at the comma and ignore the rest of the sentence. If you did that would mean no animals of any kind would be allowed. Clearly, that is not the meaning. It is non-sensical to say that the covenant clearly says "no poultry". If you say that you would also have to add it clearly says "no animals!" It says that poultry and animals are allowed under certain conditions.
Notice it allows the "use" of pets. And that pets are allowed to be kept "thereon" meaning on the lot. Not necessarily in the house. For "pleasure and use" certainly can apply to hens. I have personally never owned chickens but people tell me they are very entertaining and soothing. Amy Bertelli told the story at the Board Meeting of her father who now in his late years likes to sit and hold the hens and is very affectionate with them. Hens can be trained and will attach to their owners especially if they are raised from day old chicks as pets.
People keep all kinds of pets. Dogs and cats are first and they cause all kinds of problems. Dogs are continually cited as they will hurt other smaller animals and cause barking problems and we all know how annoying the doggie doo is on the hike/bike trails. Cats kill birds. Both can get ticks and fleas and transmit diseases to their owners. I'm not saying here that we shouldn't have dogs and cats but that we already have animals in our homes that we have to restrict and care for adaquately to protect ourselves and prevent them from being a nuisance from our neighbors. But there are lots of more exotic pets here from turtles, snakes, rats, chinchillas, etc. Go to any pet store and you will see all sorts of interesting pets. The definition of a pet above seems to be that it is not for commercial purpose but it does not really rule out any animal, bird or poultry for use or pleasure!
The other part of the covenants that I think should be re-read every once in a while is the beginning:
It states that the covenants are :
"for the express purposes of protecting the natural beauty and environment of the community of Eldorado at Santa Fe, providing an attractive rural setting for residential neighborhoods and home sites and preserving property values. This Restated Declaration seeks to maintain the unique natural character of the community for all who acquire property therein, while encouraging individual expression consistent with the historical traditions of the region. This Restated Declaration assumes that, by virtue of their purchase of property in the Eldorado community, all such property owners are motivated by these unique qualities of its natural environment and agree, for and among themselves, that these qualities must be preserved for all present and future residents."
I think this is beautifully stated. Eldorado in the beginning was the largest passive solar development in the US and had a early start in renewable energy. Eldorado was to maintain the unique rural setting while encouraging individual expression consistent with the historical traditions of the region. I think that easily accepts well regulated and well kept hens.
The last part of the covenants that apply to all animals is the nuisance covenant which is quite strict and would protect the neighbors from any visual, noise or smell nuisance. Offensive behaviors would all be covered under this. Chickens are allowed under strict conditions of no nuisance and roosters would not be allowed because of noise. Coops would have to be screened because of visual nuisance and hens would have to be a relatively small number to prevent a smell nuisance and would have to be located well away from the neighbor's window. These issues are already covered in the convenants. Good news for those who already own chickens - you are well within the covenants now. A small group of us are contacting an attorney now to get a legal opinion on this issue. But I think the covenant language is pretty plain English and can be interpreted correctly by anyone reading it without prejudice.
In short, hens are allowed under strict conditions just like any other animal. That's what the convenant says! The only legal argument you could make is that hens cannot be considered pets and I think you will have lots of arguments on that from the chicken owners who consider them to be pets..