The city Zoning Board has ruled that a Hamilton man cannot keep his pigeon coops in his back yard, but the man says he will appeal the ruling.
"I'm going to take it to court, if necessary," says Ronald A. Wacker Jr. "I'll get a lawyer and appeal it. I'm going to stand up for my rights."
The Zoning Board heard the case last week after some of Wacker's neighbors complained that his pedigreed racing pigeons are unsanitary. They challenged the issuance of the permit allowing Wacker to erect the coops.
In its decision released this week, the Zoning Board ruled unanimously that the permit had been issued in error. Gilbert V. Rubin, executive secretary of the board, said the board members concluded that, since the zoning ordinance did not expressly list pigeon coops as a permitted or accessory use, all pigeon coops were prohibited.
David Tanner, the zoning administrator, had issued the original permit. He says that for years he had been interpreting the zoning ordinance differently.
"Pigeons have been customarily raised in the urban environment for 100 years," Tanner says. "I've always treated it as an accessory use."
The Zoning Board's decision pertains only to the pigeon coops at Wacker's house. He lives in the 4800 block of Edgar Terrace in Hamilton.
But the decision raises a question about the propriety of other pigeon coops in the city. The City Council is contemplating three bills that should answer the question.
Because of the complaints about Wacker's pigeons, Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers 3rd introduced three bills last month that would regulate pigeon coops in the city, which has no regulations for caged pigeons.
Landers, D-3rd, and other officials have said they don't want to overregulate the hundreds of pigeon fanciers in the city, but they need some guidelines to weed out the irresponsible ones.
Some people race pigeons, and some people keep them for show. But, either way, the pigeons are high-quality pedigreed birds, says Ed Plevyak, race secretary of the Hamilton Homing Pigeon Club, of which Wacker is a member.
Plevyak compares the pigeons people raise at home to the pedigreed dogs people exhibit at shows. He compares the common pigeons that fly wild to mangy dogs that run the street.
Wacker, 28, a night foreman at a company that makes plastic caps for containers, races his pigeons. In a race this summer from Roanoke Rapids, N.C., to Baltimore, one of Wacker's pigeons flew the 200 miles in four hours, 12 minutes to finish 17th out of 343 pigeons.