Hampton man appeals township ruling; fights to keep farm animals
By Deborah Deasy
Published: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 3:34 p.m.
Chicken owner Max Rosarius launched a court fight last week with Hampton Township officials to keep his backyard fowl in a residential zone, where neighbors say the birds make too much noise.
Rosarius, 67, appealed Sept. 26 to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to intercede on his birds' behalf.
He's asking the court to reverse a decision by Hampton Township Zoning Hearing Board that denied Rosarius' wish to keep chickens on 14 acres that Rosarius owns on Rosanna Drive.
“Today, we filed an appeal in Common Pleas Court of the determination of the zoning hearing board,” said Stephen Farino, the attorney representing Rosarius.
“Basically, farming activities by Pennsylvania statute are protected, and enforcement of an ordinance to limit them is not permitted,” Farino said.
Farino presents that argument in an 11-page appeal with exhibits.
He filed the documents Sept. 26 to meet a 30-day deadline for appeals on decisions by the zoning hearing board.
The board issued a 21-page decision when it ruled Aug. 28 on the Rosarius case.
Rosarius maintains about 50 roosters and hens, plus four goats, in a converted double garage on his Rosanna Drive property — where local zoning rules prohibit farm animals.
In April, Hampton Township cited Rosarius for violating the municipality's zoning ordinance after one of the goats escaped, and Hampton Police picked up the animal on Harts Run Road.
In May, Rosarius received a second notice of violation after neighbors complained about his chickens' noisy calls.
Rosarius subsequently asked Hampton Township Zoning Hearing Board to overturn the violation notices but lost his appeal.
“Eventually, a judge will make a determination on whether he thinks the zoning hearing board is correct,” Farino said.
Rosarius claims that his chickens are a source of food, and that a state law — Act 38, the Agriculture, Communities and Rural Environment Act, known as ACRE, enacted in 2005 — protects his right to maintain the flock as an agricultural activity.
Hampton Township officials claim that Rosarius' chickens do not constitute an agricultural venture, and that his 14 acres do not constitute a farm.
Hampton Township solicitor Vince Tucceri plans to enter the legal cockfight on behalf of the Hampton Township Zoning Hearing Board.
“I will probably request that the township (Hampton Council) authorize intervention in the appeal,” Tucceri said. “It can argue the position that the township would like to take over the matter.
“We're not a party to the zoning hearing board,” Tucceri said. “We're not a party until we petition to intervene.”
Chris Lochner, manager of Hampton Township, said he expects Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Joseph James to handle Rosarius' appeal.
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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