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Oregon City Council on Monday, following a public hearing, approved a permanent Special Use Exception (SUE) in a non-agricultural area at 6338 Brown Road for the purpose of housing livestock.

The Planning Commission last April had recommended approval of a temporary SUE in an R-1 Low Density Residential District for the applicants and property owners Mohamed Tawil and his wife Nabil.

The Tawils had initially wanted two miniature ponies, four pheasants, four peacocks and 25 chickens to be housed at the site. But several of the Tawils’ neighbors at the Planning Commission last year had been opposed to the zoning request, mostly out of concern that possible noise and odor from the site might drift onto their properties. The Planning Commission then voted in favor of a compromise that granted the Tawils a temporary SUE to raise 20 chickens on the property for one year, and then it would be reviewed by the Commission and council upon expiration of the permit.

On Monday, Mr. Tawil not only requested he be granted a permanent SUE, but also an increase of five chickens for a total of 25, as well as pheasants, peacocks and miniature ponies.

But many neighbors were still opposed to the Tawils’ request for a permanent SUE.

Mary Ellen Poturalski, of Brown Road, said she was opposed to the permanent SUE because the Tawils increased the number of chickens that was permitted in the compromise. She said she was surprised to learn that the Tawils were asking for additional livestock as part of their request for a permanent SUE.

“The Tawils have stocked 25 chickens and one rooster. That is a blatant disregard to the original approved request by the city council. Instead of being reprimanded, they are being approved for additional livestock,” she said.

The property, surrounded by agricultural zoning on two sides, is on the south side of Brown Road, west of Bury Road. The lot size is 336 feet by 282 feet, with a seven and a half foot concrete wall surrounding the backyard portion.

Poturalski called the SUE “spot zoning” and said it threatened to lower property values.

“If you continue to spot zone in certain neighborhoods, you are just making it difficult for the people of these neighborhoods to want to stay here. You will continue to bring down property values and disrupt neighborhoods where people have come to for a better life, peaceful existence and to raise their families,” said Poturalski.

“Our neighborhood is one of respect for each other’s properties. And though we are classified as A-1, not one neighbor in over 50 years has ever abused that privacy of being in a residential area. The Tawils have not even lived there a year and a half, and you are giving them all this special treatment.”

She also expressed concerns about the noise of the animals.

“You know when you come home from work, you’re pretty tired and you go to sleep. When you get woken up by a rooster crowing, how would you feel? You can’t go back to sleep,” said Poturalski.

John Trendell, of Brown Road, said he was opposed to granting a permanent SUE.

“We come before you tonight to ask that a Special Use Exemption be denied,” said Trendell. He said he had a petition with the signatures of 12 neighbors who were also opposed to the zoning variance.

“The original property variance has not been complied with since the beginning. Twenty-five chickens and a rooster are presently housed at the property rather than the 20 chickens agreed to. The question as to the size of the property misjudges the actual amount of usable open space available for livestock. The enclosed backyard…represents less than one-third of an acre. This is hardly conducive to the proper well being of farm animals,” said Trendell.

He said there have only been two instances in which the city granted an SUE in an R-1 zoning district in the last 15 years for chickens.

“Both were temporary. Both were for 4-H projects. There have been no variances for pheasants, peacocks or farm birds of any sort,” said Trendell.

“I would remind members of council that zoning laws are passed specifically to protect neighbors from other homeowners. It is for the wellbeing of everyone that the quality of life and economic interests in their property be safeguarded. Again, we state the concerns of the neighborhood that this variance be denied,” said Trendell.

Tawil said he only had 18 chickens, not 25, on his property, and that he wanted more animals.

“I’d like to have five more peacocks, hens, and miniature ponies,” he said.

“The neighbors are complaining that I don’t have one-third of an acre,” he added. “When I bought the property, they told me it was over two acres. That is what I believe the property is now.”

“Much of that footage,” said Councilman Jerry Peach, “is covered by structures and driveway.”

“The part where I have my livestock inside the pole barn is 40 feet by 48 feet,” said Tawil. “On the outside of the pole barn, it’s 10 feet wide - and all around the corner between the wall and the pole barn. The pole barn is actually built on the corner side of the wall, where I have the 10 feet of width, and it’s 48 feet long on one side and 40 feet long on the other side. That’s the whole space I have to handle all these livestock.”

Councilman James Seaman asked Tawil if he had experience raising peacocks.

“My father overseas,” said Tawil.

“Is this part of your culture?” asked Seaman.

“It’s not, just a hobby,” said Tawil. “We’ve done it before, mostly chickens and peacocks.”

Councilman Mike Sheehy said he was sensitive to Tawil’s request.

“Is it more of a novelty or are you doing it for security?” Sheehy asked.

“It’s in my blood. I love raising animals,” said Tawil.

“Do you understand how the neighbors are looking at this and their concerns?”

Tawil said he did.

“If there are any kinds of problems, they can come to me. I don’t want to be an enemy of my neighbors. I will always have my door open,” said Tawil.

Mayor Mike Seferian said Tawil’s original request to the Planning Commission last year for an SUE included the 25 chickens. But a compromise was reached, as a result of concerns by the neighbors, to allow for a temporary SUE, with 20 chickens, for one year. Council would then review whether the SUE should be permanent. Seferian said Tawil also just had the chickens and excluded the peacocks and miniature horses, to show he could “maintain the chickens, then come back for that to be permanent.”

“He took them off the plate a year ago to get it started. He wanted to show the neighbors he could take care of what he set out to do,” said Seferian.

“It was always his intent to come back” to council, said Seferian, and request a permanent SUE.

Council President Tom Susor said he visited the Tawils’ property and had “no qualms about what he currently has.”

“I know there’s a bunch of chickens, that the yard is neat, kept up well, and I know it does not smell,” said Susor.

Council approved the permanent SUE for 20 chickens, but not the additional animals the Tawils’ were requesting.

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