Panel rules in favor of fowl farmer Neighbor complaining of noise from peacocks plans to fight decision

July 23, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

In the first test of a 2-year-old right-to-farm ordinance, the Carroll County Agricultural Reconciliation Committee ruled last week that a Gamber farmer is practicing acceptable methods in raising peafowl, despite a neighbor's complaints of disruptive noise.

Bill Powell, secretary to the Carroll County Agricultural Commission, said his office has received few complaints since the ordinance was enacted in 1994. Most have centered on odors, sludge use and flies. All were resolved before the committee intervened.

But William Hahn found no resolution to his complaints about bird noise. The shrill squawks of peacocks, male peafowl, rob him of sleep and peace of mind, he said.

Hahn complained to the Carroll County Humane Society, the state police and county officials before taking his plea to the reconciliation committee, and he might appeal the decision to Circuit Court.

The birds may be noisy, but they are a legitimate farm operation, the committee said.

Farmers are turning a small profit with the birds, which long have been prized for their colorful plumes and are now a delicacy at trendy restaurants.

Traffic noise noted

Greg Frick, who has been raising the birds for six years, says it is the nature -- not the level -- of the noise that is disturbing his neighbor, who lives a quarter-mile away on Sykesville Road, Route 32.

"I am only about 80 feet away from them, and I hear them much louder than he does, but they don't bother me," Frick said. "They are not nearly as loud as the traffic from the highway."

Frick bought his first peafowl in 1990 and is raising 15 on his 46-acre farm.

The 13 hens, one adult male and one year-old male roam the property and roost in mature trees at the center of the farm.

The image of beautiful birds fanning their feathers and nesting in stately trees sounds idyllic, but Hahn complains that the fowl deliver frequent high-pitched shrieks at all hours of the day and night, particularly during the spring mating season.

"It's the quiet nights when you hear them the most I started hearing them when I opened the windows in the spring. A peacock screams randomly and is no different from a dog barking all night," Hahn said.

Tapes played

He played tapes of fowl noises for the five-member committee. Members heard chirping birds, highway traffic and an occasional muted shriek.

"The tapes don't prove the noise would disturb my rest," said Franklin Feeser, a committee member.

Hahn also provided a stack of calendars, dating to 1989, a year before Frick purchased any peafowl. He said he had marked every day on which a fowl shriek awak- ened him.

Several complaints to the Humane Society were unheeded, he said. Farm animals are out of the society's jurisdiction, however.

The animal control ordinance regulates any animal that whines, barks or howls, but it says nothing about shrieks from fowl.

State police also refused to respond to Hahn's midnight calls about the birds, so he turned to the reconciliation committee.

"You are living in a farm area, and there will be certain nuisances," said Jim Steele, a committee member. "Frick is doing the best agricultural practices he can. There are other competing noises, which are greater in volume."

About 100 homes surround the Frick farm, but Powell has received no other complaints about the fowl.

"The task of the committee is to determine if the property owner is in conformance with general accepted practices and to reconcile any differences," said member Jack A. Gullo Jr. "Based on the testimony, we found the owner is managing his farm according to acceptable agriculture practices."

The committee has not reconciled the dispute, said Hahn, who has until Aug. 15 to appeal.

"I am not stopping my complaint," he said. "This is only the beginning."

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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