North Ridgeville

Why did the chickens cross the road? The punch line depends on the reply of Richard Monaco or Rocky Wells.

Monaco, the owner of The Hatchery antique mall on SR 83, was found not guilty of animal-at-large charges in Elyria Municipal Court July 29. The charges were the result of complaints about the chickens leaving his property and an ongoing dispute with his neighbor. Police have been dispatched to his property numerous times.

Since 2009, there have been five animal-at-large charges brought against Monaco by the city of North Ridgeville. Four of the cases were dismissed, and he was found not guilty on the most recent case.

Monaco was pleased with the jury’s decision.

“I’m happy I won,” he said last week. “(Being charged with animal-at-large) was very annoying and stressful to me.”

Wells, Monaco’s business neighbor, was surprised by the court’s ruling.

“I couldn’t believe the jury did that,” Wells said. “We had video and pictures of the chickens in our yard. We were kind of dumbfounded, but the jury’s the jury, and the law’s the law.”

He explained the smell of the chicken manure and the sound of roosters crowing bother him.

“We can’t even go out and relax because of the smell,” he said. “Roosters are crowing, and my daughter says they are waking her up. My hands are kind of tied, though. We’ve done all that we can do.”

Monaco said he has since gotten rid of the roosters. A ventilator has been built into the chicken coop to minimize any odor from the dozens of chickens that roam a fenced-in area on his property. He sees nothing wrong with raising chickens or with the way his property looks. Numerous ladders, parked cars and elevated spinners cover his front yard.

“I’ve got a considerable amount of money and effort invested into this,” Monaco said. “Believe me – I’ve got to sell a lot of eggs to pay for this. But it is a labor of love. This is my hobby.”

Both sides feel the other is to blame for many years of disputes. They started when Monaco’s dogs ventured into Wells’ yard. Since then, the two neighbors have been at odds. Both men admitted the situation creates anxiety, and Monaco said he may pursue legal action against the city or his neighbor because of a stroke he suffered in February.

Wells said he doesn’t believe Monaco is trying to be a good neighbor. He pointed out Monaco does not live in North Ridgeville, and he doesn’t raise chickens at his residence in Avon Lake.

“It’s just a nuisance, and it is an eyesore for the city of North Ridgeville,” he said, adding he misses the prior owners of the business.

“I had this house before (Monaco) had the antique shop, and there were two older ladies who had the shop,” Wells said. “They kept the property up.”

For now, Monaco is pleased he may continue to raise his chickens.

“When they said ‘not guilty,’ I almost flew out of my shoes,” he recalled. “Rocky’s face turned so red, you could almost fry eggs on his forehead.”

Wells tries to remain optimistic, both for his family and for Monaco’s business.

“I just hope we can have peace,” he said, “and everything will be solved.”

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