Neighbors drop pigeon problem on City Council

October 03, 1990|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Evening Sun Staff

The pigeons dive and swoop and land on roofs. They also bombard the neighborhood with droppings.

That's how Melvin Munk sees it, anyway. He and his neighbors in this quiet, attractive area of Hamilton are hoping the city will come to their rescue and rid the neighborhood of its "pigeon problem."

"They're like Japanese Zeros," says Munk, a retired TV technician who has lived in his house on Edgar Terrace since 1949. "They bomb the driveway."

Zeros are World War II fighter planes. Unlike the bombs the planes dropped, the bombs the pigeons drop land with a splat.

The problem, Munk says, is his next-door neighbor, who moved in this summer and brought 30 racing pigeons with him. The neighbor built two coops in his back yard, right next to Munk's back yard, and then began releasing the pigeons twice a day to fly and exercise.

But, instead of flying around the neighborhood skies and then returning directly to the coops, Munk says, the pigeons stop to roost on neighbors' houses. One neighbor had to repaint a portion of his house, Monk says, and another had to bring in his patio furniture.

Munk's next-door neighbor, the pigeon owner, could not be reached for comment. An official of the Hamilton Homing Pigeon Club, of which Munk's neighbor is a member, says that the man is new at the hobby, and that maybe his pigeons aren't adequately trained to return straight to their loft.

Nevertheless, one of Munk's City Council representatives from the 3rd District, Joseph T. "Jody" Landers 3rd, was concerned enough after hearing Munk's complaints that he introduced three bills at Monday's council meeting. The bills would force pigeon fanciers to obtain permission from the zoning board and to get permits from the health and building departments.

"We want to regulate out bad pigeon owners," says Don Torres, assistant commissioner of environmental health for the City Health Department. "We don't want to over-regulate people who know what they're doing."

But Ed Plevyak, race secretary of the Hamilton Homing Pigeon Club, says the public has such an aversion to pigeons that even responsible pigeon fanciers would face considerable opposition at zoning board meetings.

Plevyak, and all pigeon fanciers, refer to street pigeons as "digs."

"Our pigeons are pedigreed," Plevyak says. "I would compare them to the dog show you see in Madison Square Garden. That's the kind of pigeons we have.

"And digs I'd compare to dogs that run the street."

Plevyak has 100 pigeons at his house in Perry Hall. He says he releases them twice a day, and they fly for about 45 minutes or an hour and then fly back to their loft. There's no reason trained racing pigeons should splatter neighbors' property, he says.

"They've been flying pigeons in Baltimore since way back in the early 1900s, Plevyak says.

Joe Bowers, who owns the Exchange Feed Store at Ann and Fleet streets -- a gathering spot for pigeon fanciers because it carries pigeons and pigeon supplies -- says there must be at least 500 people in the city who own pigeons.

He says it's shortsighted -- and that's a nice way of putting what he said -- to make laws regulating everybody who owns pigeons just because one or two owners might be irresponsible.

Torres, the Health Department official, says he plans to hold meetings on the regulations with pigeon fanciers and neighborhood organizations with pigeon complaints. Now, Torres says, the city has no rules regulating caged pigeons.

Meanwhile, Munk and his neighbors have gone to City Hall for help. After Munk's neighbor got a building permit to erect his pigeon coops, Munk appealed the issuance of that permit. The )) zoning board has scheduled a hearing on the appeal Oct. 23.

Munk has made several trips downtown to meet with city officials trying to resolve the problem. Once, he says facetiously, he asked them if he could raise hawks.

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