Rooster crowing debate should focus squarely on noise

Two rooster ranchers are taking on San Benito County’s ordinance
that essentially wipes out their operations because it limits the
number of crowing fowl on one property to fewer than 10 of the
birds and fewer than one per acre.
Property rights issue? 

Two rooster ranchers are taking on San Benito County’s ordinance that essentially wipes out their operations because it limits the number of crowing fowl on one property to fewer than 10 of the birds and fewer than one per acre.

Both sides have legitimate concerns, but we suggest there is one overwhelming consideration – following existing noise rules – which should be the debate’s focus and trump any other conjecture over the number of roosters allowed or even, from the primary plaintiff’s perspective, the distance between his crowing fowl and the neighbors.

Frank Del Carlo raises more than 200 roosters on his Pan Temp Way ranch east of Hollister. He and another resident who also raises roosters are suing the county for damages caused by the ordinance approved two years ago.

The matter had been set for a court trial earlier this month but was delayed due to a scheduling conflict with a criminal case.

The ordinance limits the number of crowing fowl allowed on a property and regulates the housing of the noisy birds. It requires property owners to get a permit if they have fewer than 10 crowing fowl. Those with more than 10 birds are required to go before the planning commission to get a conditional use permit. The ordinance also requires the fowl to be housed in a way that doesn’t create a nuisance, such as in a sound-proof enclosure or behind a sound-proof wall.

Del Carlo’s case

Del Carlo, with his relatively large breeding operation, points to a commendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its cleanliness and even contends county officials had told him and the other plaintiff they would be grandfathered in under the old rules with the law’s passage. He argues it’s a property rights issue and his attorney says they’ll challenge a defeat in higher courts if necessary.

Focus on noise rules

The county, meanwhile, passed the ordinance in response to several neighbors who complained after Del Carlo moved in about three years ago. They had told supervisors of early-morning crowing from hundreds of birds, concerns about odors and speculation that roosters were being bred for cockfighting.

Officials responded and took action – and limiting the number of crowing fowl was their way of addressing the neighbors’ concerns, including the big one, noise. We suggest a more simple, less subjective solution that could – or at least could have – appease neighbors’ frustration with noise and defeat any notion of diminished property rights.

Address the matter by using a noise ordinance that applies to all.

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