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Feathers fly in battle between pigeon fancier and South Jordan

Published: Thursday, April 3 2014 5:32 p.m. MDT

Boris Majnaric watches his favorite pigeon Avalon fly from his hand in a backyard shelter in South Jordan Thursday, April 3, 2014. Avalon died and he performed CPR on it. South Jordan has fought for years with Majnaric to remove the birds.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SOUTH JORDAN — Most people aren't fond of pigeons. But Boris Majnaric loves them.

Take the bluish-gray bird he named Avalon, the one he brought back from the dead.

Majnaric found the featherless fledging frozen in his backyard gazebo, eyes closed and not breathing. He took it into his garage and put it on the hood of his still-warm Toyota Avalon. He gave it a warming solution and started CPR. Nothing. And so he prayed.

"Lord, I have to feed the other birds. I'll be back in 45 minutes," the 74-year-old retired middle school French teacher recalls saying. "When I came back, she was moving. As far as I'm concerned, she's a resurrected bird."

Avalon now lives in a spacious, 384-square-foot, four-room loft in his backyard along with about 200 other pigeons of various colors and varieties. Dozens more "homeless" birds roost in the unique gazebo he had built just for pigeons.

But some of Majnaric's neighbors and the city don't share his passion for pigeons.

People in the well-kept neighborhood don't like all those birds perching on their houses, defecating on their roofs and patios, or turning up dead in their yards. They also say pigeon feed on the ground attracts rats.

South Jordan charged Majnaric last August with three class B misdemeanors related to the size of his flock, banding and registering pigeons and keeping them in a coop. It also filed a court petition to remove his birds and tear down the pigeon paradise.

Majnaric filed a federal lawsuit last month seeking an injunction to stop the city from razing his loft and gazebo and "cruelly" destroying his pigeons.

Majnaric's attorney, David Pace, said the city agreed Wednesday to postpone a review hearing scheduled for next week in the city case to talk about a settlement.

Under any scenario, Majnaric would have to find a home for all but 40 birds to comply with South Jordan law. He can't bear the thought of the city removing his pigeons, which he says means sure death.

"The word 'remove' makes me sick," he said. "You don't use the word remove for God's birds. You use the word remove for the garbage."

Majnaric built his house in 1996 and asked the city about laws for raising pigeons. An official directed him to an ordinance that allowed for a "reasonable and manageable" number of fowl on a residential property. Although the law has changed over the years, Majnaric said his house, which abuts a farm filled with sheep, should be grandfathered in.

Neighbors noticed an explosion of pigeons in the area about three years ago and complained to the city, igniting what has become a three-year battle.

Next-door neighbor Kent Baker said he has no ill will toward Majnaric but says he should come into line with the law.

"Every other city in world is trying to get rid of pigeons, and my neighbor decides he should have more. He's just kind of hoarding pigeons," he said.

Majnaric's federal lawsuit is the latest move in the prolonged fight that he said has cost him $20,000 and caused him heart problems. A jazz saxophonist and clarinetist, he said the fight has sapped his ability to practice and write music.

South Jordan charged Majnaric with animal nuisance/disturbing neighborhood and land use regulations in October 2012. He was found not guilty of the nuisance charge after a trial in 3rd District Court but was cited for a use violation. Judge Barry Lawrence ordered him to bring his flock into compliance with the city ordinance.

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