Woman Files Suit Against City of South Charleston Over Chicken Ordinance

Paul L. Frampton, Jr. is Helping Local Woman Fight Governmental Overreach and Abuse of Power

Susan Casdorph of the City of South Charleston, WV Has Been Unlawfully Denied A Permit To Keep Chickens June 20, 2023

Woman files suit against city of South Charleston over chicken ordinance.

Story posted to Charleston Gazette-Mail here: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/search/?sd=desc&l=25&sort=relevance&f=html&t=article%2Cvideo%2Cyoutube%2Ccollection&app=editorial&nsa=eedition&q=south+charleston+chicken

A South Charleston woman has sued the city over its refusal to grant her permission to raise chickens, arguing the prohibition is unconstitutional and the city’s Property Board refuses all applications.

Furthermore, the city keeps no records of who has filed permits, the suit alleges, and does not check to see if applicants are meeting conditions set forth by the Property Board. All applications are summarily dismissed, the suit maintains.

“It’s really simple,” plaintiff Susan Casdorph said on Monday. “Their ordinance says if you get a permit, you can get chickens. You go in with the expectation you can get a permit, but you’re never going to get a permit.

“It’s unconstitutional. They’re not abiding by their own ordinance because they refuse to give anyone a permit regardless of what their circumstances are. If you say you can get a permit, there has to be a regulation by which you can get a permit.”

Casdorph, represented by attorney Paul Frampton, Jr., filed the 18-page complaint Friday in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

“We’re comfortable with our position,” South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens said Monday. “This is ridiculous.”

Casdorph and fellow city resident Alex Urban both filed permits last year with the Property Board, Casdorph to raise chickens and Urban bees. Casdorph pleaded her case before South Charleston City Council earlier this year, but did not get a permit.

Mullens and city engineer Steve DeBarr, who also serves on the Property Board, acknowledged the administration is against residents housing bees and chickens, in a Gazette-Mail interview earlier this year.

Mullens said Monday that talk is still alive of new city council legislation that would do away with the application process for good. The fact no one is publicly rallying to Casdorph’s cause is proof of little support, said Mullens, who estimates not more than five people have filed similar animal permits in the past five years.

The mayor and his City Hall supporters say chicken and bee applications are hard to vet, because of what they say is the unpredictability of how well someone will maintain a chicken coop or bee hive.

Last fall, the suit says, Casdorph filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records of all chicken applications from Jan. 1, 2012, to the present.

On Sept. 27, 2022, South Charleston City Manager Rick Atkinson directed her to city Administrative Assistant Debra Sutler. According to the suit, Sutler told Casdorph no such records exist.

Casdorph alleges that in a Dec. 6, 2022, Property Board meeting, one member remarked that “the majority of the people in South Charleston don’t want chickens” and that another said, “There’s no way I want them ... I don’t want my neighbor having them either.”

In denying her application in early January, the Property Board said the majority of South Charleston doesn’t want chickens, claiming that coops stink and draw predator animals.

Casdorph said Monday that predatory animals already exist in her neighborhood and that double-mesh wire would suffice. She mentioned coyotes, hawks and bears. Neither one of her neighbors is opposed to her keeping chickens, she said.

Casdorph’s request for relief includes a writ of mandamus compelling the city to issue a permit and to “refrain from enforcing a moratorium on the issuance of permits for the keeping of chickens.”

She also requests a declaratory judgment that the ordinance restricting the right to keep chickens is invalid and unconstitutional, and that the city enact rules for granting or withholding permits.