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.
The judge also found that in addition to Majnaric’s birds, some “homeless” pigeons took up residence in the gazebo. He ordered a veterinarian to set up a management plan to care for the additional pigeons. Majnaric said he continues to abide by those guidelines, including closing many of the nesting boxes in the gazebo. He also isn’t supposed to feed birds outside the coop.
But South Jordan spokesman Chip Dawson said Majnaric hasn’t complied with the court orders, which has complicated the issue for the city.
“Obviously, the city feels like there’s a limit to how many we can accommodate,” he said.
Last year, South Jordan considered an ordinace patterned after one in Cottonwood Heights to increase the number of pigeons allowed to 220, but it failed.
Majnaric is trying to arrange for a Box Elder County pigeon fancier to pick up about 100 of his birds next week. But Majnaric said pigeons roosting at a nearby apartment complex and recently razed barn will move in within a few days — something he said he can’t control.
Dawson said the city does not ascribe those random birds to Majnaric.
Majnaric said he’s raising pigeons to fulfill a childhood dream. His parents gave him two pigeons in his native Croatia when he was 12 years old. He said he cried when they died.
When he retired, pigeons became his life.
One is a look-alike to a gray and brown bird his parents gave him. He named it Delnice, after his hometown. He feeds his flock twice a day and keeps medicine on hand to heal sick and wounded birds. Veterinarian Martin Orr describes him as a compassionate caregiver with a deep sense of what pigeons need.
“I think the birds love it here. And I love them, too,” Majnaric said. “They’re my best friends.”
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