The chatter of more than 200 exotic birds makes Michael Theisen’s unincorporated property in southeast Chandler sound like a rain forest, but Maricopa County may soon silence the bird calls.
Because of a complaint about the noise that led to inspections of his property last fall, Theisen has been ordered to get a special use permit or pay a $300 fine and $30 a day until his property is in compliance.
"There sure were a whole lot of birds out there so we asked him to get him a special use permit," said Tim Overstake, the county’s code enforcement supervisor.
Although Theisen’s 5-acre, unincorporated land is zoned rural, the county requires the permit when private property is used as a zoo, with wild or exotic animals.
Theisen said he is not running a zoo. The birds are a hobby. With only a chain-link fence and dense trees visible from the dirt road that dead ends at his property, the only sign of birds is the roar of chirps and squawks. Behind the fence, Theisen, a flooring contractor, built a long row of cages that he has been filling with various species of macaws, cockatoos, parakeets and other brightly colored birds since 1992.
"It’s my therapy," he said.
Theisen has appealed the April 25 order that he be fined unless he brings his property into compliance with a special use permit. His attorney, Kent Nicholas, argues that the county’s rules for exotic animals should not apply to Theisen’s property because he began putting birds on the land, which he purchased for that purpose, before the permit requirement for exotic animals was added to the county’s zoning ordinance in February 1994.
The real conflict is between new home development in the area and large, hobby-type uses like Theisen has, Nicholas said.
"With development in the last 10 years, they’re trying to force these people out, and they’re doing that by requiring special-use permits," he said.
Theisen said he was working with the county to get the permit, which costs $1,000, but then found out that a flood control survey also would be required, costing him an additional $3,000.
"It’s kind of like I’m being railroaded," he said. "It’s like they’re singling out someone who has birds, and it’s not right."