Emotional-Support Ducks Likely To Remain With Boy With ASD
JENISON, Mich. — The two sides in a zoning dispute — a family with two pet ducks and some neighbors who complained about the mess the animals occasionally made in their yards — may both get what they want.
At least, that’s what Georgetown Township officials are attempting to achieve.
Dylan Dyke, 12, and his two emotional-support ducks have been at the center of the zoning dispute for weeks. The Dyke family is seeking a variance, basically an exception to the zoning rules, to allow the ducks to remain on the residential property on Van Buren Street. A therapist says the ducks help Dylan who has high-functioning autism.
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Members of the township’s Zoning Board of Appeals postponed Wednesday night’s meeting after three hours without taking a vote on the issue. However, they indicated they will come up with a proposal that will allow Dylan to keep his ducks and set guidelines to keep the ducks off neighboring properties.
The next Zoning Board of Appeals meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26.
On Wednesday night, a large crowd turned out for the meeting at Georgetown Township Hall.
Supporters of Dylan and his ducks and some neighbors who complained about the nuisance caused by the ducks spoke during the meeting.
One of the neighbors who filed a complaint with the township said the ducks’ habitat kept by the Dyke family wasn’t always clean. Maggie Phillips also said the ducks used to be able to run free before recent improvements.
“They say they’re not aggressive; I’ve seen firsthand that they are aggressive to adults and kids and there are people here who would testify to that,” said Brandon Phillips, Maggie Phillips’ husband. “It’s not the Dykes’ fault that they’re aggressive; they’re just being ducks.”
While seeking a solution, those who complained didn’t advocate for the removal of the ducks during the meeting.
“I want to be clear they’re all terrific neighbors, they’re not mean people, and nobody has ill will towards Dylan,” said Jay Shaap, who lives next to the Dyke family. “We just don’t want the ducks in our yard, along with the problems they create. It’s that simple.”
Many supporters of the Dyke family and the ducks wore yellow shirts. Some cried while speaking in support of the boy.
“Raising a child with autism is not easy, every day is a struggle,” said Kimberly DeVries. “The argument about disease and feces in our neighborhoods, I feel are invalid. We live on a lake … I have flocks of ducks and geese on our lakes every day.”
Elia Dood, 9, spoke at the hearing about her own animals and how she would be sad if someone took them away.
“Please let Dylan keep his ducks,” Dood said to the board members. “I don’t know what I would do without my animals and Dylan needs his ducks.”
Jake Lombardo, the Dyke family’s lawyer, called the situation a lack of communication and misunderstanding that led to the zoning dispute.
“At the end of the day this case is about a little boy who wakes up every morning with a difficult hill to climb,” Lombardo said. “The ducks help him get to the top of the hill.”
The Dyke family posted on their Facebook page after the town hall meeting regarding the diverse perspectives given by community members.
Board members discussed wanting more time to work through requirements to allow for the ducks at the Dykes’ property. One proposal mentioned was to allow the ducks under the zoning rules for chickens. The township’s zoning rules allow for chickens in residential areas like the Dykes’ home.
One part of the zoning rules for chickens states: “Chickens shall not be allowed to roam the parcel or any other property.”
Mark and Jen Dyke, Dylan’s parents, have previously said they would file a lawsuit if the township fails to grant a variance.
“It’s a win for us,” said Jen Dyke, Dylan’s mom, after the meeting. “We still have a lot to do, but Dylan will be able to keep his ducks.”
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