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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Birdfeeding Trouble in Bethlehem Township

Diane and Bill Ganssle cited for feeding birds
After hearing the birdfeeder saga of Bethlehem Township residents Diane and Bill Ganssle during their last two meetings, Commissioners have had enough. At their January 20 meeting, they agreed to review an ordinance that deprives most of the Township's 24,000 residents from the simple joy of maintaining a birdfeeder.

This story first began on December 10, when the Ganssles received a "Notice of Code Violation" concerning their birdfeeders, which have been visited by 75 different bird species over the past 25 years. The notice informed them that their feeders need to be in enclosed and shielded containers, and ones that would not allow seeds to fall to the ground. That might attract rodents. If they failed to remedy the matter within the next five days, they could be fined as much as $1,000 per day.

According to Diane Ganssle, "We have never seen a rat or even a mouse in our back yard as a result of the seeds that fall to the ground as most seed is eaten by ground feeding birds, squirrels and chipmunks."

Code Enforcement Officer Abraham Hoffner told the Ganssles that the Township is a "complaint driven" community, meaning he does not take it upon himself to look for birdfeeder violations. Though complaining parties are known to code enforcement, their identity is kept confidential.

The Gannsles took down their birdfeeders, and purchased a new one for $50 after sending a picture and getting a clearance from Hoffner.

"We hung our feeder in our crab apple tree and have once again enjoyed birds feasting on the seeds," said Diane. "We also enjoyed watching the squirrels in the catch basin, now able to reach the feeder more easily, ... as well as dumping anything in the catch basin onto the ground when leaving."

Unfortunately for the Ganssles, their complaining neighbor spotted the squirrel, too, and provided the Code Enforcement Officer with both photographs and video of the guilty squirrel, which happens to be a rodent, sitting in the catch basin.

Now the bottom of the feeder is 8' above the ground, and the Ganssles have to use a ladder to do the daily dumping.

"There is enough government control in this country," argued Diane Ganssle. "We don't need to have rules for birdfeeding in our township that will ultimately cause our birds and wildlife to suffer."

After hearing Ganssle, Township resident Bill Berry gave his opinion of the ordinance. "It's just silly," he observed.

"You're right, it is silly," agreed Commissioner Marty Zaworski, who noted that the Ganssle property is meticulously kept. "You've got a nosy neighbor with nothing better to do," he added.

Commissioner Mike Hudak told the Ganssles that he will visit their property himself, noting he lives only a quarter mile away.

"I think your complaint is quite valid," added President Tom Nolan. "I hope it is not against the law to be kind." He assured the Ganssles that Commissioners will review the ordinance.


Anonymous said...

I noted on the previous article that it must be nice for Bethlehem Township to have the staff levels to investigate people's bird feeders. This should be dismissed as a private nuisance. Let the sick creep neighbor hire an attorney and prove a nuisance in court. This does not sound like a proper use of public resources.

Anonymous said...

Lots of birdfeeders in my backyard. No mice or rats. They're raptor food and are never an issue. Bigger issue is fed birds shitting thistle seed-laden poop all over the place; creating weed problems.

Peter J.Cochran said...

I am also "GUILTY" and we have the beautiful Blue Jays and Cardinals along with a "Murder" of Crows that allow me to walk near them. I would think BT would want to foster nice folks, as these. I bet they have a clean property with no car parts on the front porch and no inside sofa or old TV's stowed ether. I would bet they pay their taxes on time, educated their children , give funds to charities and have never been in any trouble at the court house! WAIT B-Twp ,your in for it with what will be getting shortly with some of your development.

Anonymous said...

That the government must approve birdhouses is a sign that Bethlehem Township is lost. Many have known this for years. I formally request the permission of the Township to take a shit and wipe my ass. Ridiculous. Major parts of the overdeveloped township are regularly under water as these retards have never heard the term, runoff. Yet, they're in the effing birdhouse approval business. Fix the 2/3 of the township you've left vulnerable to regular flooding and get the fuck out of my birdhouse business you inept assholes. Unbelievable.

Whethervain said...

Figuratively speaking, if I were the Ganssle's, I'd just flip 'em the bird.

Anonymous said...

Think everyone is forgetting that this is a law that has been on the books long before this batch of commissioners got here. I would guess at least 25 years. It sounds to me as though they are just as stunned at the stupidly as everyone else. Let's see if they actually do something.
8:00, said that without one vulgarity !

Anonymous said...

This story actually is on nationally at FoxNews.com. Now the world can appreciate it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:00, Your comments are both unfactual and unfair.

Anonymous said...

This is bad government. Much like what happened in Lehigh Township earlier this year with the guy and his garden, the township staff should have exercised better judgement and common sense.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the Township Solicitor will address this issue and advise the Township to stop enforcing the bird feeding ordinance. These only affect immediately adjacent neighbors (if at all!) and should be considered a PCM (private civil matter).

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Bigger issue is fed birds shitting thistle seed-laden poop all over the place; creating weed problems."

Give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

Good living God! Am I actually reading about people complaining about bird feeders?!?!?! I wonder the result if the people complaining put this much energy into more important issues in our society today....?

Is the issue deer or rats? Either way, what person has the time to stand outside their window and watch bird feeders all day long for violations? I'm going to venture a guess and say that if the Ganssle's invited anyone to come to their home and see what is there, it can't be so much of a mess to be creating these issues to begin with.

What if we take the bird feeders down for a little while and see if the problem persists...? How about that? Then we can determine if it's truly the bird feeders? Should the Ganssle's have to do this? No. But if it will appease the childish neighbors who have nothing better to do with their time than police bird feeders all day, then I say go for it.

The legal system needs to be a looser pay system. If we're going to rant and rave over bird feeders and the animals that they may attract, then there should be some level of compensation for those who had to go through this non-sense if found "innocent"; in this case the Ganssles's.

I have the perfect punishment. Make the complainants stand at the intersection of a busy road with signs on them that read, "I didn't get picked for kickball when I was little and therefore am angry at society".

....sigh....I think I'm done now. There's 10min of life I will never get back because of bird feeders. Who would have ever thought?!

Hang in there Ganssle's. Maybe next week they'll complain about something else.....like watching paint dry takes to long

Anonymous said...

The problem with this one is that they actually have a law about birdfeeders. Check out their website. Its an old law and must have been put in for a reason. Maybe someone had too many feeders and neighbors bitched? The Township codes guy did the right thing. He was probably bantered by the complaintants and simply did his job. The Township ought to drop the charges and repeal the law. There nice and easy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, the Ganssles spoke very highly of Hoffner. He was not trying to be a jerk, and was very nice to them. The law does need to change.

Anonymous said...

Here is the problem. can the staff just simply withdraw the charges because of public outrage? I would suggest not. That would be unethical and corrupt. What should be done is the feeders should come down, the inspector called to check the site. He then will determine compliance with the law. Then when he leaves, the land owners can do what they want. I would think that the inspector won't be back despite any complaints. Now, the goofy Board of Commissioners should consider having a hearing to remove the old law from its book of codes. Cased closed everyone wins and no laws were broken nor was anything done unethically.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Let me explain this to you. the Ganssles rec'd a notice of code violation. They were not taken to court and had 5 days to comply. They took down all their bird feeders. Then they went out and bought one that would be OK, for $50. They put it up, and a neighbor complained again. Then the code guy came out and they put it up a third time, with the bottom being 8' off the ground. This one complies, and draws no birds.

Anonymous said...

A bird on a feeder is happier than a bird in the bush !

Anonymous said...

There is an article in the Morning Call Wednesday stating that the issue is now about deer and not about rats per se. I have been feeding birds, not rats, for years and squirrels are always going to find a way. There are no such things as squirrel proof feeders as I have tried most of them on the market and none work. Hopefully the ordinance can be changed but in the meantime I will continue to feed the birds and if someone doesn't like it, tough. I just hope none of my neighbors are anal morons with nothing better to do than cause trouble.

ShutUp said...

"The notice informed them that their feeders need to be in enclosed and shielded containers, and ones that would not allow seeds to fall to the ground. That might attract rodents."
Their bird feeders did attract one big RAT (rodent) their nosy neighbor.
Way to go Bethlehem Township this story went national so now BT is the blunt of jokes across the country.
"Though complaining parties are known to code enforcement, their identity is kept confidential."
They need to change that to "Complaining parties WILL BE NAMED IN THE COMPLAINT". I'd bet that would put an end to a lot of BS complaints from nosy people.

Anonymous said...

Something of interest to note. The township is not very willing to get involved when foreclosed properties or lazy owners don't mow their lawns and actually make neighbors file complaints for that when 12 inches of weeds and grass is quite obvious for everyone to see. Us neighbors have to actually go to the Municipal Building to file a complaint and then maybe two weeks later something is done. Of course 1 month later back in the same boat so hopefully if we want to enforce this ridiculous ordinance, they'll get tougher on people who don't mow their yards for weeks at a time.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It is a complaint-driven community, meaning the Tp responds to complaints. Personally, I think the complaining parties should be identified. Being able to confront your accuser is basic fair play. In the criminal context, it is a constitutional right.

Anonymous said...

I see the comments here and I cannot believe the ridicule over a person doing a job that he was hired to do. A Code enforcement officer is hired by the municipality to enforce the codes. This is no different than a police officer being hired to enforce the law.This code is forty two years old and it specifically spells out what kind of bird feeders are allowed. The ordinance is on the municipalities web site and can be seen by all. The ordinance was quoted to the enforcement officer by the complainant. In this case the officer must act and do his job. agian the ordinance is on the books longer than most people working at the township were working there. He was hired to enforce an ordinance that was already there or risk being fired for not doing his job.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the issue here is with the county officials enforcing the law. Sounds to me like the Ganssle's have no issue with the county officials "doing their job", but rather that the law itself, is old, and quite honestly, stupid. As well, the neighbors are just whining selfish people with nothing better to do with their time.

And I agree with Bernie, they should be named publicly as well. But I'm sure soon enough it will come out who they are. Especially when one of them is a cop who was video taping peoples property and homes in the middle of the night, and the other is the whiny brother of a magistrate who needs to tattle to his brother because he's too much of a coward to handle real-life issues himself.