Saturday, January 8, 2011

CCNA Takes No Position on Chicken Rules, Members offer Suggestions

The City of Sarasota’s powerful and respected neighborhood super-organization CCNA (Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations) declined to take a position on proposed backyard chicken code changes, but interested CCNA members offered several suggestions they felt would improve the initiative.

CCNA bylaws require the support of two thirds of the neighborhood representatives present to take an official action on public policy and after an initial motion failed, it became clear that the relatively large number of abstentions would doom any motion. 

Some representatives abstained because of close votes in their neighborhood, while others have not met recently enough to consider what is being proposed. One representative voting against commented that he felt obligated to vote against because of an earlier vote by his neighborhood board, which was apparently based on an earlier proposal and not what is currently being proposed by either City Staff or CLUCK.

City staff distributed their current wording, while CLUCK spokesperson Susan Hritz Scholz handed out a colorful graphic that revealed the effect citizen suggestions had on what CLUCK was proposing.

The motion that garnered the support of roughly a third present had four provisions:

First that CLUCK would aid in education and enforcement,

Secondly that additional enforcement provisions be included,

Third, that the measure be adopted with a three year trial period, and

Fourth that the measures CLUCK was seeking to add that had come from public comment be incorporated in the code changes.

1)   CLUCK has already spurred the offering of three educational "Chicken 101" type workshops, one of which (ironically) was taking place during the CCNA meeting. As for helping with enforcement CLUCK, has had a preliminary conversation with City Code Enforcement officials suggesting that City would be amenable to CLUCK playing an informal role in resolving some chicken-related code concerns. Mr. Litchet was clear that a formal volunteer code enforcement program (which is allowed by Florida law) would carry its own training costs and liability concerns, but that an informal role had possibilities. CLUCK has already independently negotiated an end to two chicken violations in the City.

2)   CLUCK supports adequate enforcement provisions and was reassured to hear Mr. Litchet state that the City can and will enforce the ordinance if passed by the City Commission. CLUCK believes part of the perception regarding lack of enforcement provisions results from the fact that the enforcement procedure and penalty schedule appear in a separate section of the City Code.  Chapter 2 Article V. Division 5 (Code Compliance System) Section 2-321 provides for a $50 a day fine for violations of Chapter 8.2 -8.4.

3)   CLUCK has been on record as opposing a trial period for a number of reasons. But discretion being the better part of valor, if the City Commission cannot agree on a code change without a trial period, a trial chicken period is preferable to a continued no-chicken period. This is similar to our stand on numbers -- we will argue for six, but find four a more workable number than zero.

4)   CLUCK has proposed adding a number of more restrictive provisions as a result of public testimony, particularly coming from members of CCNA, [These may be seen in bold type on the graphic.] It was gratifying to see CCNA members endorsing these provisions, which reflect the spirit of compromise and accommodation CLUCK has espoused from the outset.

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