“iI’s up to you, the Parish Council, to change the law to stop this. If you don’t change it, then people can raise chickens, pigs, anything else they want to in the middle of a subdivision, and there is nothing that can stop them.” Burleigh Soape, Tangipahoa resident
AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish Council determined Monday it could not solve a problem one parish resident has with his neighbor’s 35 chickens.
In order for the council to take any action, the neighbor would have to have another 465 chickens because the parish’s 40-year-old ordinance only regulates farms in unincorporated areas of the parish that contain more than 500 chickens.
Burleigh Soape, who resides on Soape Road southwest of the Hammond city limits, complained to the council that a neighbor, whom he declined to name, is raising about 35 chickens in the immediate area of a subdivision in violation of an ordinance adopted in 1973 that prohibits the keeping of chickens within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling. Soape claimed the resident in question is keeping his chickens within 160 feet of his dwelling and as close as 50 feet to other neighbors.
Soape said the man’s chickens have become a neighborhood nuisance because the birds are not always penned and their pens create a strong odor. Further, Soape said, the man burns chicken waste from time to time, causing an even greater stench. Soape said at least 350 families are affected by the smells.
Council Attorney Cliff Speed, who noted that the ordinance was passed when the parish was under the old police jury system, told Soape there is nothing that the Parish Council can do because the ordinance only regulates farms that contain more than 500 chickens.
Councilman Ronnie Bankston, who represents the district where Soape lives, asked Speed if the ordinance could be rewritten to specify a smaller number of chickens than the 500 now prescribed by law.
Speed replied, “You can write a law stating that even raising one chicken could be against the law, but I’m not sure that you could enforce it.”
Councilman Carlo Bruno, who represents a largely rural area north of Independence replied, “If you try to write such an ordinance, I know about 1,000 people who would be here at the next meeting to protest. A lot of good people like to raise chickens, and I haven’t heard any complaints about this.”
Speed suggested to Soape that he consider filing a lawsuit against the chicken keeper on the basis that a public nuisance has been created.
Soape replied, “I’m not suing anybody … it’s up to you, the Parish Council, to change the law to stop this. If you don’t change it, then people can raise chickens, pigs, anything else they want to in the middle of a subdivision, and there is nothing that can stop them.”
Answering a question about who has jurisdiction over raising livestock, Speed said such matters usually fall under the inspection arm of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. He said it was his understanding that the health inspectors had visited the site where the chickens are being raised and found no reason to restrain the practice.
“It’s my understanding that the department of health sees this as a parish matter and not a state matter,” Speed said.
Asked if he had talked to the man raising the chickens, Soape said he did but that he was told by the man that he would not stop raising and selling chickens.
To end the discussion, Bankston said he and Soape would meet with parish and state health inspectors to see if a solution to the complaint could be reached.
At the end of the discussion, Councilman Bobby Cortez reminded the council that if Tangipahoa Parish had zoning laws, such issues would take care of themselves. Over the years, the council has refused to discuss the possibility of passing zoning regulations in the parish.
In other business, Parish President Gordon Burgess told the council a new list of roads to be resurfaced would be presented at the next council meeting. Burgess said the parish has about $4 million in road repair money left over from the 2013 fiscal year to use on the roads. He estimated that 18 to 20 miles of roads will be improved. In July, a new phase in the parish’s long-range road resurfacing program will be launched, Burgess said. The parish will spend about $3.8 million on roads at that time, he added.