BROCKTON -- A Hull woman defended herself in court Monday against complaints that her bird feeding attracts an unruly flock of fowl and creates a public nuisance.
After six hours of proceedings that included testimony from the woman, 70-year-old Gail Kansky, a judge gave attorneys three weeks to submit additional arguments.
Hull officials, backed by frustrated neighbors, are seeking to force Kansky to remove the bird feeder, at least temporarily.
During testimony in Brockton Housing Court, Joyce Sullivan, Hull’s director of public health, said she had observed birds gathering across Kansky’s property and on nearby roofs and an adjacent rail bed.
“In a neighborhood like that, I think having over 100 birds in one area is excessive,” Sullivan said.
Birds and their droppings can increase the risk of people contracting diseases such as salmonella and West Nile virus, Sullivan said.
Kansky has been an avid bird feeder for years and she once fed birds along the town’s shoreline, she said. But in recent years, a neurological disease has limited her mobility, and she has taken to feeding birds from her home.
Complaints about overfeeding at her residence date to 2010, and officials have spoken with Kansky repeatedly about the issue, Sullivan said.
Kansky previously agreed to stop tossing peanuts off her porch but has not backed down about the feeder. “I won’t take down the bird feeder because I’m not wrong,” she said during cross-examination Monday.
David Grossack, Kansky’s attorney, questioned whether Sullivan had proven that bird droppings and rodent activity in the area were related to Kansky’s feeder.
Grossack also asserted that the town was infringing on his client’s right to make decisions about her property, and he blasted officials for mentioning, in a letter to his client, that the town reserved the right to place the house in receivership.
“If that isn’t bullying, your honor, I don’t know what is,” Grossack told Judge Wilbur Edwards. “It’s legal terrorism.”
The day also saw expert testimony from Jonathan Boyar, a pest management consultant.
Boyar backed Sullivan’s suggestion that bird seed scattered on the ground near the feeder could be connected to signs of increased rat activity.
“Seed is the favorite food of rodents,” he told the court.
Several neighbors sat through the day’s proceedings, with some shaking their heads or muttering under their breath during Kansky’s testimony.
After a contentious exchange between Kansky and James Lampke, Hull’s town counsel, Edwards asked attorneys from both sides to limit their inquiries to the issue of the bird feeder.
“There seems to be a major dispute between these two neighbors,” the judge said, after Kansky spoke of an argument with a woman who lived nearby. “All I’m dealing with is the birds.”
During a break in proceedings, Kansky said watching the birds brings her joy.
“You lose so much because of illness,” she said. “Why not have a bird feeder?”
At the conclusion of the day’s testimony, Edwards asked both attorneys to prepare written arguments referring to legal precedent and to the relevant local health and public nuisance regulations.
He denied a request by Lampke to limit Kansky’s bird feeding pending the next court appearance, scheduled for next month.
Instead, he opted for a verbal request.
“Ms. Kansky, be judicious,” the judge asked.