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.

Sarasota CLUCK blog sets new record (7,500 pageviews), continues to draw readers

Some want to know if  interest in the local backyard chicken movement in Sarasota has been overstated. Not if internet traffic is any measure. The facts are that our blog demonstrates increasing interest (as well as CLUCK's ongoing outreach efforts). During the morning of January 8th the Sarasota CLUCK blog recorded its 7,500th pageview. This represents more than a thousand pageviews since end of last year. Even during the busy holiday season, CLUCK pageviews continued to surge -- from November 28 to December 28 alone we recorded 3,000 pageviews. And between December 10th and December 28th we logged over 100 pageviews a day and recently it has been closer to 125 pageviews a day. This heavy traffic is reflected in the fact that if one googles Sarasota Speaks, one of the top blogs listed is CLUCK -- our feed to Sarasota Speaks currently contains 59 items.

CLUCK Health: Millions of Eggs Pulled in Germany due to Dioxin Contamination of Feed

The New York Times reported today that German officials halted sales from 4,700 small farms on friday and pulled millions of eggs from the shelves after dioxin was discovered in feed for chickens and pigs. . .
The article goes on to say the contamination may have started months ago.

Read the article here.

Read about dioxin here.

Part of the motivation for backyard hens is to give consumers more control over their food supply. Recent egg scandals in the US reinforce the magnitude of the problem.

Article on contaminated broilers. 

Fed drops ball on egg safety.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Urban Chicken Wave Breaks over Albany NY -- Lessons for SRQ or vice versa?

The Farmlife writer for the Albany Times Union, Teri Conroy, used today's blog posting to broach the subject of Urban and Suburban Chickens in Albany NY. She used her blog to lay out a starting position similar to what we have been discussing, but a little more ambitious -- 6 to 8 hens instead of the 4 to 6 we have been discussing around here. 

Then she encouraged a discussion. By 8:16 p.m. this evening seventeen readers had responded.

I think it's fair to say that most of the responses were enthusiastically positive-- just as early reactions to backyard chickens in Sarasota were strongly favorable. The question is: what next? 

Conroy plans a followup article "Things you can do to try to change the law". Will chicken advocates in Albany adopt a path similar to CLUCK's or strike off in an another direction? 

Stay tuned as another community explores the potential of backyard hens. 

POSTSCRIPT  January 9th

Here's the followup blog posting.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

CLUCK: Another Introduction to Chickens Workshop Scheduled

One of the recurring criticisms of our initiative to re-legalize backyard chickens in Sarasota is that neophytes have no idea what they are signing up for. CLUCK has responded by supporting both public and private workshops to help prospective chicken keepers decide if they are a good match for backyard hens. There are a lot of great new books out there about raising backyard chickens, but there is no substitute for learning from someone who is successfully raising chickens.

In addition, CLUCK is pleased to announce a second workshop taught by Alex Coe who provided lots of wisdom when we first started defining what we should ask for. Now you can learn from Alex.

"So, you think you want to raise chickens" on Friday January 21st from 10 - 1. At Swamp Castle Farm 1563 Arcadia Avenue, Sarasota 34232.

You'll learn how to set up new baby chicks and see various stages of chicken development. This is an introductory class to the responsibilities and understanding of chicken husbandry.

$10 donation to farm - for reservations call SWAMP CASTLE FARM 941 378-0314/941 780-3447 cell

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CLUCK's Greatest Hits -- the Top Twenty Postings on Local Backyard Chickens

With over 100 Sarasota CLUCK blog postings, you're probably wondering how does one find the best, the most crucial, postings and skip all the humor, self-congratulatory reporting, meeting announcements, and accounts from other places? This posting provides one click access to the top twenty postings regarding Sarasota's backyard chicken topics. Just click and go.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

CLUCK graphic depicts provisions included for neighbors, chickens, and owners

You've seen the text version of the suggested City Code improvements CLUCK is proposing. Now you can see a graphic that reveals which provisions have been included out of consideration for neighbors, which benefit the chickens, and which benefit the owners.

You'll notice the staff recommended maximum of four hens really only benefits the owners and the chickens whereas the CLUCK recommendation is shown as also benefiting neighbors. That's because adding two more birds greatly increases the likelihood there will be eggs to share.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Three Proposals CLUCK is NOT Supporting

The proposed revisions to the City Code making it possible for people to once again have a few chickens have gone through several changes, and CLUCK, in response to concerns raised, has proposed additional changes dealing with odor, setbacks, sale of eggs and other topics.

But three of the suggestions that have surfaced are not acceptable. Here they are and here's why:

REFERENDUM: Rumor has it at least one group says they will be calling for a referendum on chickens. Really? We get to vote on small fluffy pets, but not the FPL 30 year contract? Not on ball stadium funding, but birds?

It has been hard enough for an all-volunteer citizen group to mount an ambitious campaign to inform decision-makers, citizen leaders and the media. But, aside from the cost of a referendum itself, asking a citizen group to find the funds to mount a political campaign (for OR against) while we are paying Commissioners to analyze the situation and make decisions for us is a misallocation of resources.

This is a decision the Commission is completely capable of making on its own. CLUCK has been working on this for year and a half and that should be long enough for the City to make a decision without further delay and major expense. 

NEIGHBOR VETO Some are calling for a provision that would require neighbor approval before you could have chickens. Really? So your neighbor could put up a fence or cut down a tree that shades your lot without your approval, but they get to decide what pets you can have? Or someone can come into your neighborhood and, if they get a rezoning, completely change the land use next to you and you don't get a veto, but if they wanted to have a few hens, you could nix that? Really?

If the City wants to explore neighbor veto, a major policy change, they should make that a proposal and then we can argue about what is in and what is out. But any major shift in doctrine of this magnitude should be fully discussed and not hidden in a piece of animal regulation.

RIGHT OF INSPECTION  Code enforcement is hampered by the fact that, at least on homesteaded properties, inspectors don't have the right to come look all around your property. If you neighbor has four rusting junker cars in the backyard behind a fence, code enforcement may not be able to get in there to confirm and take action. Could be, but this is the status of the law today and making adjustments in private property rights (or way or the other) demands careful consideration.

Now some think we should include a right of inspection for chickens. Again this is a major policy issue that involves private property rights. If the City wants to marshal some attorneys to figure out how to broaden inspectors ability to look around -- fine, let's have that discussion. But trying to insert this significant change in chicken language is not the way to go about it and could lead to bizarre situations like the right check on chickens, but not a junkyard.

Bottom Line: CLUCK has listened to all the testimony, read all the letters to the Editor, and paid attention at neighborhood meetings. As a result CLUCK has proposed numerous changes in response to concerns. But CLUCK is not interested in escalating this relatively simple matter to referendum status.

And if the City engages in a broad community discussion about allowing neighbors to veto your activities or changing your rights relative to code enforcement and the results of that broad policy shift affect backyard chickens, so be it.  But using a an animal ordinance as a backdoor assault on property rights is not appropriate, and needs to be labeled as such.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

CLUCK Proposes Wording Changes to Strengthen Backyard Chicken Code . . .Added restrictions address odor, setbacks, manure, sale of eggs, and animal welfare concerns

As a result of the Planning Board hearing City Planning Staff agreed to clarify the language in Section 2c. which deals with how the birds will be contained. Staff made it clear to CLUCK that we could propose other changes that we thought would improve the ordinance language.

CLUCK feels the staff re-write changed the intent and effect of 2c. so we are presenting our suggested substitute as well as provisions increasing the number of hens, creating minimum space requirements for the birds, increasing the setback from neighboring homes, addressing manure and odor, prohibiting the sale of eggs and providing some relief for owners of dogs or cats that kill chickens.

Although there was much discussion regarding the lack of enforcement language, CLUCK did not propose any additional wording because 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.

CLUCK Proposed Adjustments to Proposed Ordinance Language

Based on citizen and Planning Board comment and testimony, CLUCK is proposing several adjustments to the proposed ordinance language. The version below is CLUCK’s substitute. New or revised language shown in bold

Sec. 8-2.  Keeping livestock and certain animals prohibited.

 (a) Except for a retail establishment engaging in the lawful sale of animals and Sarasota Jungle Gardens, it shall be unlawful for any person to keep, harbor, raise or maintain the following:

(1) Any livestock;

(2) Any poultry, except chickens being kept, harbored, raised, or maintained as accessory to a residential single family structure, subject to the following restrictions:

a.  No more than six (6) chickens may be kept, with roosters prohibited,
b.  No person shall slaughter any chickens,

c.  The chickens shall be provided with a movable covered enclosure (henhouse/coop) and must be kept in the covered enclosure or a fenced enclosure at all times. Chickens must be secured within the henhouse/coop during non-daylight hours.

d. The space per bird in the henhouse/coop shall not be less than four (4) square feet per bird.

e. No covered enclosure or fenced enclosure shall be located in the front yard nor shall the henhouse/coop be closer than ten (10) feet to any property line of an adjacent property, nor within twenty-five (25) feet of any adjacent residential structure.  Odors from chickens, chicken manure, or other chicken-related substances shall not be detectable at the property boundaries.

f.  All enclosures for the keeping of chickens shall be so constructed and maintained as to prevent rodents or other pests from being harbored underneath, within, or within the walls of the enclosure. The henhouse/coop must be impermeable to rodents, wild birds, and predators, including dogs and cats.  Enclosures shall be kept in neat condition, including provision of clean, dry bedding materials and regular removal of waste materials. All manure not used for composting or fertilizing shall be removed promptly.

g.  All feed and other items associated with the keeping of chickens that are likely to attract or to become infested with or infected by rodents or other pests shall be kept in secure containers or otherwise protected so as to prevent rodents and other pests from gaining access to or coming into contact with them;

h. The sale of eggs or any other chicken products generated in City of Sarasota is prohibited.

i. No dog or cat that kills a chicken will, for that reason alone, be considered a dangerous or aggressive animal.

(3)Any rabbits, except those being kept, harbored, raised or maintained:
a.   As pets within a completely enclosed dwelling or detached garage capable of housing at least two cars;
b. In an outside enclosure, coop or pen, up to a maximum of two rabbits.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) above, the city manager or his designee may, by special permit, authorize the keeping harboring, raising or maintaining of livestock, poultry or rabbits (not within a dwelling) within the city limits. A special permit may only be issued for a specified limited period of time and shall set forth such conditions or requirements as shall be deemed necessary to mitigate the potential adverse effects upon neighboring properties. In determining whether a special permit shall be issued, the city manager or his designee shall consider the nature of the request, the potential benefit to the city or the general public which may result if the special permit is granted, and any adverse effects which neighboring properties may experience if the special permit is granted.

(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) above, private restrictions on the use of property and keeping of animals shall remain enforceable and take precedence over the standards herein. Private restrictions include but are not limited to deed restrictions, condominium master deed restrictions, neighborhood association by-laws, and covenant deeds. The interpretation and enforcement of the private restriction is the sole responsibility of the private parties involved.