Pecking order

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

August 14, 2013

Feathers flew once again this week as a Roseboro woman approached the town board about an ordinance prohibiting residents from keeping chickens, specifically backyard hens, within town limits, an ordinance which commissioners voted to uphold back in June.

Roseboro resident Laura Gray used the town’s public comment section to question the town board’s previous denial.

“Is there any way the voters could decide?” asked Gray, mainly directing her question at Billie L. Poole of Holland, Poole, Holland & Sanderson, the town’s attorney.

According to Poole, voters deciding whether or not to keep that ordinance was not an option.

“Are there any other options?” Gray asked, a question that was met with silence from Poole and the commissioners.

After a few moments, Roseboro mayor David Alexander reminded Gray that the board had already denied the request for keeping chickens in town.

The request was first brought before the town board for consideration a couple of months ago, primarily by resident Steven Heath who spoke about the issue at both the town’s May and June meetings and who gathered a total of 127 signatures on a petition he started supporting backyard chickens; the town validated 107 of those signatures.

In addition to Heath, fellow residents Gray, Angela Heath, and Annie Black also spoke in support of keeping chickens in town during the June meeting.

When Gray came before the town board in June, she reminded them that her son, who was then sitting in the audience, had also petitioned for backyard chickens to be allowed in town a few years ago and that his request had also been denied. She also pointed out that other cities and towns in Sampson County, and in the state, including Garland, Autryville, Newton Grove, and Raleigh, allow their citizens to keep backyard hens.

In response, the commissioners expressed a variety of concerns including the possible requests for other farm animals to be allowed in town if chickens are approved and the potential conflict allowing chickens in town could have with their plan to establish condos in Roseboro.

Gray warned the town board in June that “if this board is against change, this town will die…you can’t give us a valid reason why it (allowing chickens in town) can’t be done.”

After Poole explained that voters could not make the decision about the ordinance and override the town board’s previous denial, Gray again requested members reconsider allowing residents to keep backyard hens within town limits.

Commissioner Roland Hall acknowledged that the issue had already been addressed “three or four times” in the past, and he made a motion to place a moratorium on the issue for the remainder of the 2013 year.

The town board — commissioners Alice Butler and Anthony Bennett were absent — unanimously voted to postpone any further discussion about the chickens until after the end of the year.

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at