Andrew Wordes has called Roswell his home for almost 20 years and over that time he has come to be known as the "Roswell Chicken Man" for the dozens of chickens he keeps on his property. However, the 53-year-old describes his residency as a perpetual hell as he continues to battle the city’s government over a myriad of legal problems he says stems from the chickens.
City officials, on the other hand, have stressed that Wordes legal woes are of his own making and that the city has to enforce its ordinances. Among the ordinances Wordes has recently been cited for violating are the city’s nuisance law, as well as zoning laws related to proper fence placement.
The battle over whether or not the ordinance violations are legitimate could be settled in the next few months. In the meantime, Wordes says the fines he is being assessed are taking a toll financially and he now faces possibly losing the house he's come to love and adore.
In 2009, Wordes defeated the city’s efforts to rid him of his chickens. With former governor Roy Barnes as his attorney, he was able to get the city’s ordinance deemed unconstitutional by Roswell Municipal Court Judge Maurice Hilliard. As a result, the city rewrote the ordinance, but was unable to apply it to Wordes because he had been “grandfathered” in under the previous ordinance.
Wordes’ jubilation over being able to keep his chickens was quickly interrupted. During 2009’s record flooding, the flooding heavily damaged his property. He blames an inadequate stormwater system in Roswell as the culprit. His property backs up to the Hog Wallow Creek.
“I had more than two feet of water on my property,” Wordes said. “The creek overflows because of overbuilding and the lack of stormwater management.”
Not so, said Stuart Moring, director of PublicWorks/Environmental for the city. Moring told Roswell Patch that much of the building around Hog Wallow Creek is single family homes on private property and occurred during the 1970's and 1980's.
In response to Wordes suggestion that the city had failed to properly manage stormwater issues, Moring said, "I feel sure that the prevailing stormwater management requirements of earlier periods of construction were followed and I can guarantee that today’s more stringent standards are followed now. Unfortunately, many homes and buildings were built in certain locations before there was general awareness or understanding of flooding capability, which is why programs like [Federal] flood insurance were developed, to assist those who had made unfortunate decisions."
Convinced that it is the city’s responsibility to prevent the flooding, Wordes said he has requested assistance, but was repeatedly shot down.
“The city refuses to do the right thing,” Wordes said. “I personally believe the city refuses to do anything because of my battle with them over the chickens.”
The matter will likely have to be settled in the courts. Wordes' has filed court papers to have the matters over the ordinance violations resolved. However, according to Moring, Wordes property has been found to be located in a flood plain almost since the beginning of the Federal flood insurance program; "at least since 1977."
"I am told that Mr. Wordes acknowledges that he formerly had flood insurance, but abandoned it because he wasn’t using it," Moring said.
Wordes pointed out that he had to move the fence that surrounds his chicken coops 25 feet from the creek. However, just on the other side of the creek, there is a fence that sits less than five feet from it. Wordes said he does not understand how he had to be in compliance of this fence placement rule while the owners of the land on the other side of the creek have yet to move their fence the required distance.
As far as the nuisance violations are concerned, Wordes’ neighbors appear split. While some complain that the noise and smells from the chickens drives them nuts, others say it’s no big deal. Still, a petition is being circulated about how Wordes’ chickens and other animals are affecting the neighborhood, which is located off of Alpharetta Highway. Wordes also keeps pigs, quail and roosters on his property.
In the meantime, Wordes says the fines and fees, not to mention the costs of the lawsuits from 2009, have put his finances in dire straits. He’s lived in the house without heat or air conditioning for about two years. He says he’s anxious about being able to keep and maintain the house, not to mention what will come of his animals if he has to move. Furthermore, he says that even if he tried to sell the house, it would be extremely difficult because of the heavy damage caused by the flooding.
“I chose to live in Roswell because I really loved this area,” Wordes said. “I raise the chickens as a hobby, not for a living. This fighting with me over these chickens has just grown to be ridiculous.”