Monday, January 14, 2013

North Port to Consider Chicken Ordinance

Today a North Port Commission workshop inched the City one baby-step closer to considering a change that would allow backyard hens in single family areas.

Commissioner Jones has been hospitalized, so only four commissioners were present to discuss the staff presentation.

The discussion started with public testimony that included a young home-schooled girl that corrected a number of common misconceptions about chickens. Another speaker wanted to correct some statements that had appeared in print. If there was to be a fee, she favored a one-time fee, not an annual expense. She also thought chicken tractors were a good idea. Another speaker talked about the need to limit the idea specifically to chickens and not poultry in general. Finally, CLUCK advocate Jono Miller offered the assistance of the organization that led the 18 month campaign to revise the City of Sarasota's chicken rules.

North Port planner Scott Williams sought to make the point that residential zoning is not the same everywhere and that what works in one community may not be appropriate in another. He was concerned about "co-mingling uses" and seemed to invoke the possibility that chickens might lead to other animal requests. He introduced the concept that farm animals aren't pets.

Mayor Yates then spoke and made a passionate case for backyard chickens and expressed her opinion that chickens can be pets. She acknowledged that there are health risks with all pets, but in her opinion the CDC website made it clear that other, more common, pets present more health problems for people.

Commissioner Cook wanted to clarify that communities with mandatory Homeowner Associations such as Heron Creek could or would have regulations that would trump any City relaxation of chicken rules. Attorney Robinson agreed that was the case.

Commissioner DiFranco has personal experience with chickens, but made it clear she felt a lot of feedback was needed.

Planner Williams cautioned against simply copying the City of Sarasota since North Port has a lot of 80' x 125' lots and Sarasota doesn't have any ag. zoning where chickens were allowed.

Commissioner Blucher said he considers chickens farm animals and that while he had talked to two people that want chickens and received emails from nine, he had heard from many more people that didn't want their neighbors to have chickens. Noting that Sarasota has a trial period, he expressed interest in learning what the experience was there before acting.

The Mayor then contributed more arguments, noting that slaughtering was not allowed in Sarasota. She opined that parrots are noisier than chickens, but yet are allowed in North Port. She emphasized both the sustainability and family pet aspects and sought agreement from the other commissioners to move forward by having staff draft an ordinance based on the CIty of Sarasota's ordinance.

Commissioner Blucher could not support that, but Commissioners Cook and DiFranco were willing to at least go that far, so the concept moves forward, partially based on the energy of Mayor Yates. The Mayor emphasized that additional public meetings on the topic should be held in the evening so more people could attend.


The planning staff is clearly not supportive of this change. But they did not move forward the disease and predator arguments they featured in their staff report, instead focusing on how North Port is different from other places - containing both small lots and ag. land in a big city. Mr. WIlliams mentioned "co-mingling" - an apparent reference to mixing agricultural and suburban uses. And he used a vague domino theory to suggest chickens could lead to other animal requests. Mayor Yates support of pets is contrasted by Commissioner Blucher's opposition to farm animals. Commissioners Cook and DiFranco seemed open to listening to a draft ordinance, but their support is not assured.

Bottom line: If North Port residents want to be able to keep chickens on single family lots outside of the Estates, they will need to organize more supporters and successfully challenge the argument that chickens can't be pets.

1 comment:

Brandy Grote said...

There are other people in North Port who want chickens. One of the things I would say is; It is a real way to teach our children responsability and where food comes from. My daughter's favorite food was sliced ham,till she found out it was pig last weeek and now she won't touch it,she crys she likes pigs.