On March 10, 2021

An assault on bird feeding

Dear Editor,

It was not my first choice to write this letter. I would have preferred to be able to handle the Bird Feeding Problem within the Telemark Village Association internally.  But, sometimes you have to take a stand on something you believe is truly unfair and unjust.

My husband and I have been living at Telemark Village for over 25 years. We think it is the best condo development in Killington.

I have been feeding the birds and squirrels for years. Feeding stops promptly on April 1 or when I receive notice the bears have come out of hibernation.

My feeding the wildlife became an issue a few years ago when the unit at the end of our building got mice. The unit D4 is over 25 feet from mine. I offered to pay for an exterminator but the owner refused and took the issue to our association board. The president of the board is best friends with the D4 unit owner. Instead of telling him to work it with the unit owners in our building he brought the issue the association and created the following rule for feeding birds in the winter.

Rule 16 provides that: “During winter months (November- March), an owner may install and maintain a bird feeder on Telemark property. However, such bird feeders may not be located closer than 25 feet from any building. Any owner installing a bird feeder must notify the Association, in writing, of the intent to do so and specify the location of the feeder. It is the owner’s responsibility to keep the bird feeder clean by performing weekly or bi-weekly maintenance. Such maintenance must include cleaning with a 10% non-chlorinated bleach and raking the ground under the feeder to eliminate seed waste which attracts mice and other small rodents.”

The rule is unreasonable. There was no way you could follow that rule in the winter. Plus a hanging bird feeder would attract more wildlife including turkeys.

I did a lot of research on the best way to feed the wildlife without attracting mice. I worked with two wildlife food companies and we determined that I stop using a traditional bird feeder and use suet products on a platform to prevent anything falling to the ground.

The association was taking a tree down behind my deck. The stump that was left was the perfect height for me to use as a platform feeder and it was roughly 20 feet from the building. Guess what they did? They took it down.

So, this winter being unable to follow the rule, I took their advice and created a winter feeding station for the birds and squirrels on my table using a variety of suet products. It has been a success.

However the board is still threatening me with legal action if I don’t cease and desist. Below you will find my letter and proposal to the board.

To the board, Feb. 19, 2021

I am writing this letter to the board with the hope that after reading this we will be able to come to an amicable agreement.

I have read the Rule on Bird Feeders carefully. As the rule is currently written, I have not installed a feeder.  Regarding the 25 ft distance. The rule you wrote must have come from a website that was referring to feeding birds in the summer.  It would be next to impossible to follow the existing rule in the winter given the amount of snow on the ground and the fact that there is no way to rake up the seed that has fallen or clean the feeder.

About the mice. This is Vermont and we live in the woods. People have mice without feeding the birds in the summer as well as the winter. In fact there are a number of units at Telemark that have mice that do not have feeders. We have been feeding the birds and squirrels for a very long time.  It was never our intention to cause any problems.

This season I have been in touch with a number of wildlife feeding companies. They manufacture a variety of seed and suet products for both birds and a variety of wildlife. I explained my situation to them and discussed the best ways for me to feed the wildlife without attracting mice. We came to the conclusion that suet products would be my best bet.

I sent them pictures of how I created a wildlife feeding station on my table using their suet products. They were excited about my approach and the success I am having in not attracting mice.

After reading a number of articles I have learned that once you start feeding the birds during the winter months it is important to continue because they become dependent on the food supply.

Quote from a product, “Suet stays where you put it. It is much more efficient than seed because it doesn’t fall to the ground . It sticks to its form until a hungry bird or squirrel pecks some off to eat. With regard to the cleaning of the feeder. Since my wildlife station does not use a hanging feeder and the fact that I am using suet negates needing to clean.

The distance between my unit and D4 is more than 25 feet. There is very little chance that my feeding the wildlife is causing them to get mice. We have no mice and my direct neighbor has reported no mice.   As the exterminator said in his report….the wood stacked on the front porch attracts more mice than my feeder.

In the Declaration from 1995 and again in the latest amended rules #11.4. Reasonableness Test. Every rule must be reasonable. I think the existing rule as written is unreasonable for the winter months. Try trekking 25 feet into the snow to fill a hanging feeder, clean it and rake up the fallen seed.

As for the removal of my table. The rule states furniture. My interpretation of furniture does include tables, but it also includes chairs, lounges and settees. I understand that having a deck full of furniture would be horrible for the winter months. However I have a small light table that is easily moved. In 23 years of living here I have never been asked to remove my table.

I invite you to walk over to my deck and see for yourself before you pass judgement.

I propose that the Board grandfather my table and feeding station. I will provide Unit D4 with a Sonix-Rodent deterrent, or exterminator or whatever it will take to rid him of mice. This spring after the snow melts have North Country check for holes that the mice might be getting through. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Susan and Gerry Leiber

Their response:

We were found to be in violation of both rules and given til April 1 to remove my feeding station. Also, that we pay all their legal fees. So far the amount is $2,381. They also plan on putting a lien on our property. If I continue to feed the birds next year without following the rules we will be fined $10 a day.

I wrote this letter to the community where we have spent our winters for over 30 years because I wanted your opinions. I am not sure how I want to move forward with this. My email address is Artfulsouls@comcast.net. I welcome your comments.

Susan Leiber

Telemark Village, Killington

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