Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 11, 2017

MS Supreme Court Upholds Decision that the Raising and Keeping Fowl in Residential Neighborhoods Violated County Ordinance

Property Owner Hatfield raised chickens, guineafowl, and ducks on his property. In October 2013, he was sued by the Deer Haven Owners Association (DHOA), regarding his alleged violation of subdivision covenants that prohibited keeping or raising fowl and constructing structures, such as pens and coops, without DHOA approval. The Board denied Hatfield’s request to continue to keep or raise fowl on the property. Hatfield filed a Notice of Appeal and Bill of Exceptions, in which he argued the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, not supported by substantial evidence, and was based on an unconstitutionally vague Ordinance section. The circuit judge found the Board’s decision was “fairly debatable,” supported by substantial evidence, and not arbitrary or capricious.

On appeal, Hatfield argued that by not exclusively defining “livestock” or “grazing livestock,” Section 601 could be interpreted to include poultry, fowl, and/or birds, and was therefore unconstitutionally vague and lacked “clear notice and sufficiently definite warning of that which is prohibited.” Section 601 gave the following examples of permitted “livestock”: “(i.e. horses, cattle, sheep, goats, mules, etc.).” The court found these examples were limited to large, four-legged, hoofed animals, and not “chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, or other fowl.” Furthermore, the Article V sections, which controlled Agricultural Districts, listed as a specific permitted use the “breeding, raising and feeding of chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, or other fowl.” The court therefore held that the Ordinance was sufficiently clear that keeping or raising fowl, while expressly permitted in A–1 zoned districts, was not permitted in R–1 zoned districts. Accordingly the Board’s interpretation of the ordinance was upheld.

Hatfield v Board of Supervisors of Madison County, 2017 WL 3452426 (MS 8/10/2017)

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