When Jack Forester entered into a contract for a 30-acre farm on Hwy. 9 north of Dawsonville last year, he didn't know the property was in the city limits.
He was also unaware a city ordinance prohibits raising fowl. Forester thought chickens were allowed on property zoned residential-agricultural in Dawson County.
Monday night, the Dawsonville City Council approved Forester's deannexation request in a 2-1 vote that went against the advice of Dana Miles, the city's attorney.
With James Grogan serving as mayor in Joe Lane Cox's absence, the vote fell to three councilmen: Calvin Byrd, Chris Gaines and Jason Power. Byrd was the lone dissenting vote.
Miles advised the council pre-vote that approval "sends a dangerous message to the public."
"I expressed that the risk of approving a deannexation in a case like this ... is that it tells the public that if the rules don't suit you, then you just deannex," Miles said.
However, Forester and wife Cynthia took a different view. They're pleased they will be able to plant and raise their own food, including hens for fresh eggs.
"It will allow us to fulfill the vision of our homestead," he said. "Hopefully, we will grow some extra food we can sell at the farmers' market or roadside stand, where people in the community can get locally grown food that they know is fresh that is not contaminated from thousands of miles of diesel fuel."
Forester sees it as a way for his family to "get on with [their] lives." He said the county's residential-agricultural zone, where fowl and swine are allowed, seems to be a perfect fit.
His wife is excited for the family.
"Our kids love the property," she said. "They love to get dirty and they love everything about it, so it would be nice to show them where our food is coming from. It is good for them to learn."
The Foresters began inquiring about rezoning in October. The property, which had been annexed into the city nearly six years before they bought it, went into foreclosure in early 2011. It was then acquired by United Community Bank.
While in the process of working towards the purchase, the Foresters were surprised to learn the site was actually in Dawsonville, where chickens and pigs are not allowed. A March 2011 city ordinance prohibits them so as to avoid having agricultural businesses that could be a nuisance to residents.
Local real estate agent Kristie Myers spoke in favor of their deannexation request Monday.
"I encourage you to let the Foresters move on with their vision of raising their children on a perfectly legitimate and wonderful plan," she said. "[A sustainable farm] is something that would be wonderful to see more people get back to."