We Get Letters

Published on April 20, 2016

Every day, the County Board hears from residents on a wide range of topics and concerns. We thought we would share two of the letters we received recently, from young Arlingtonians who eloquently urged the Board to take action.

The first was from 11-year-old Genevieve Gordon.

"I am writing to you because I want chickens," Genevieve declared. She and her family had visited a farm in Germany "and they had adorable baby chicks, so I asked my parents, "can I get some baby chickens?"

Her parents, Genevieve said, "thought it was a great idea." But when they looked into the County's regulations, they discovered that the family does not have enough yard space to be allowed to raise chickens.

Genevieve's "ask" of the Board was straightforward: "I was hoping you could alter the laws so we could have chickens," she wrote. "I know that this is a lot to ask, and I completely understand if you cannot change this law."


Community liaison Robert Sharpe responded:

Dear Genevieve,

Thank you for contacting the Arlington County Board about baby chickens. The County Board wants to hear the concerns of residents and it's great that an 11-year-old is writing them. I am following up at the request of the County Board.

We looked into making it easier for Arlington residents to keep chickens a few years ago. Baby chickens become big grown up chickens and some people were worried about having chickens as neighbors. Even though many other people wanted chickens, we decided not to allow them in small yards.

The baby chickens you saw on the farm in Germany probably had a lot of space to play. The farm neighbors probably did not mind the chickens, in fact they probably had chickens too. We are more like a city here in Arlington, so the pets we allow in Arlington are pets that do well in cities.

Can you ask your parents if you can get a different pet? The Animal Welfare League of Arlington has puppies, kittens and small animals like bunnies, hamsters and mice. My 11-year-old adopted a very nice two-year old cat. He is very playful and doesn't get into mischief like a kitten, at least not too much. We named him Oliver.

If your parents give you permission, please look at www.awla.org on a computer or ipad and see if there are any animals you might like. You would be doing a good thing by adopting a shelter animal in need of a new home. All the animals there make good pets for a place like Arlington and your neighbors should like them too.

Thank you again for writing the Arlington County Board.

The second was from 7th-grader Oliver Stearns. 

"I respectfully ask that you would start a program to clean all of the worms from the dirt and yard debris that you receive in the green organic bins that you have recently distributed," Oliver wrote, referring to the County's recent launching of a year-round yard waste program. Under the program, residents may dispose of yard waste year-round in green bins distributed by the County.

"I would wish for you to do this because worms are excellent and essential for maintaining a healthy and beautiful garden. In fact they act as a natural fertilizer, leaving behind droppings that do the same job as manmade fertilize," Oliver continued. "My name is Oliver Stearns and I'm in 7th grade in Arlington and am concerned about the amount of worms that may be wasted in the green bins."

Oliver noted that "according to University of Illinois 500,000 worms could make up to 50 pounds of fertilizer….that same 500,000 worms can make a drainage system equivalent to a 2,000 foot long pipe. Amazing!"

The middle-schooler asked that the County Board "create a program in which all of the worms that you receive in the Green Organic Waste Disposal Bins will be picked out and put into vials and then redistributed back to the people of Arlington County. That way we may be able to cut down upon fertilizer runoff from lawns which ay improve the water quality of nearby streams which would eventually improve the water quality of bodies of water farther down the way. Please take my suggestion into account and save the two inch worms that we rely on so much."

Robert Sharpe is working on a response to Oliver.