Bird Lover Plans to Fight City's Nuisance Threat

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- A self-confessed "bird lover" living in a northwest Cedar Rapids neighborhood is drawing nuisance complaints from the city because housing and health inspectors are telling her she is attracting too many wild birds to her rental home.

Roseanne Dodd said she moved into a rental home at 5009 Kessler Rd. N.W. about five or six years ago and immediately placed a number of bird feeders around the property. Dodd said she probably has a dozen scattered around right now and also scatters some seeds on the ground to attract large numbers of wild birds she loves to watch. But her bird feeding hobby has drawn complaints to the city. And within the last year, the city's Building Services Department along with Linn County Public Health began checking out the property to investigate complaints about too many birds.

Dodd said earlier this month she got a second nuisance violation notice from the city asking her to reduce the number of birds attracted to the property by not putting out as much bird feed.

"I said this was nuts. How can you say the birds are a nuisance when most people love the birds. Most people feed 'em....it's not like there's a bunch of stuff in the yard and I clean up the seed," Dodd said.

Kevin Ciabatti, director of the city's Building Services Department, said the city has no rules limiting the number of bird feeders an owner can place around the yard to attract wild birds. But there are general rules about cleanliness and unsanitary conditions outside of homes and the surrounding property. That's the part of the city code a housing inspector cited in asking for a cleanup of the bird seed around the yard.

"Given the size of that lot and the number of birds that I understand visit there throughout the day I think the average person would consider it's creating a nuisance," Ciabatti said.

But Dodd said she "didn't know it was a crime to feed birds" and plans to fight the citation.

Ciabatti agreed it is a judgment call for an inspector to determine there are too many wild birds flocking around a home. But he also insisted it was a legitimate health issue covered by city code. The city has met both with Dodd and the owner of the rental home to request a cleanup and a change in Dodd's extensive bird feeding habits.

Ciabatti said right now, the city is asking for voluntary compliance to the nuisance issue and would only issue a municipal fine if there's no attempt to reduce the amount of bird seed on the ground to control the number of birds that congregate.

One of the home's owners, Teresa Dove, said she doesn't have a problem with her tenant feeding birds in the yard. But she might encourage some compromise and fewer bird feeders to get the city to withdraw that nuisance notice.
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