CLUCK presents this analysis in advance of the City of North Port hearing that will take place at 6:00 pm. on Monday April 22nd.
1) Who will regulate cage specifications? Coop or cage specifications in the City of Sarasota are, for the most part, performance-based. While there are specific square foot requirements, other requirements can be solved by the owner. For instance, the coops must be movable, but it does not specify if that has to be using wheels, skids, or lifting. See 5. Coop Requirements below.
2) Is a permit required? Staff is anticipating (proposing?) that permits be issued through the building department. This is a major departure from the system in place in the City of Sarasota, which does not require a permit. At the January workshop, the direction to staff was to use the City of Sarasota ordinance as a model, so one has to ask where the permitting requirement originated? Adding a permitting requirement increases costs for both residents and the City. The City should consider allowing chickens and coops without the need for permits or licenses. See 9. Permit Requirements, below.
3) What about those neighbors that do not want to live next to chickens? This is an important question. It presumes that neighbors are entitled to some sort of veto power over their neighbor's activities. But this is America, where a man's (or woman's) home is his or her castle and we allow people to do what they want in pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unless we choose to live in a community with strict HOA covenants, neighbors do NOT have the right to say what pets their neighbors have. The exceptions occur when one neighbor creates a nuisance. That should result in an enforcement action, whether the nuisance is barking or dangerous dogs, squawking parrots, or a crowing rooster.
4) What about property values? No information or testimony has been brought forward at any level that backyard hens decrease property values. In fact, a recent article documents the fact that chicken coops are being included in some real estate ads as amenities. One prominent Sarasota realtor said "If your neighbor has three lawn ornaments or paints their house pink, that will have more effect on the ability to sell your house than if they have backyard chickens." See "D" at the bottom, from a recent Environmental Law Review article.
5) What will be the impact on wells? The photo below shows chicken droppings in relation to US quarters. The idea that this amount of waste could affect potable water wells in neighborhoods with septic tanks is chilling because this is a trivial amount compared with the what enters the surficial aquifer via the septic systems, which treat far more human waste. We presume and hope potable wells in North Port are accessing a deeper aquifer that is isolated from septic tank effluent (as well as dog waste -- one Springer Spaniel produces as much waste as six chickens!)
|Yellow triangle arrows point to chicken droppings - insignificant compared with dogs, which are allowed.|
6) What is the cost to City to regulate? To properly answer this question data would need to be produced documenting the current level of effort (and cost) the City now expends reacting to chicken complaints. Code enforcement is already responding to roosters and other complaints. So the real question should be: Will chicken complaints increase, decrease, or stay the same after backyard hens are legalized? See 9. Permit Requirements below.
The experience in many communities is a decrease or no increase in complaints. CLUCK believes this results from two phenomena: 1) some current violations would be compliant if hens were allowed and, 2) people will attempt to come into compliance to ensure they will be able to keep their chickens. Right now there is no greater penalty for having a rooster or two dozen birds --establishing reasonable limits creates an incentive for people to abide by the law -- even if they are now lawbreakers.
CLUCK believes that enforcement actions should be directed at real problems: animal abuse, animal hoarding, and cockfighting (and there is no cockfighting without loud roosters).
Two years into allowing chickens in the City of Sarasota, all six candidates at a forum were asked if they were comfortable with the chicken ordinance. All six said they were.
7) How many citizens really want this? CLUCK does not know how many citizens would be interested in having backyard chickens, but that really shouldn't be a determining factor. If it is reasonable, it should be allowed, even if only one family wants chickens. And if it is unreasonable it should be denied, even if a majority of citizens want chickens. Consider this: if the number is very small, then by definition it will have almost no effect on the community.
8) Is there a minimum lot size? No, and neither is there in the City of Sarasota. Keep in mind 75% of the largest cities in the US allow hens, which argues that small lots need not be problematic. See Section 3 below.