Tuesday, June 14, 2016

North Port Nixes Hens Again

Despite strong support from Commissioner Yates and Mayor Moore, the North Port City Commission once again sunk an effort to have staff draft a backyard hen ordinance based on the successful experience of the City of Sarasota. 

Commissioner Cook's objection to my being able to speak for more than three minutes signaled her continued, and strident, opposition to backyard chickens and Commissioner Tom Jones seemed concerned about the possibility of residents living in mandatory Homeowner Associations (such as Sabal Trace) being unable to prevent poultry. (The City of Sarasota makes it clear that mandatory HOA regulations take precedence over the Citys' ordinance.) That left former supporter Vice Mayor DiFranco, a former chicken owner, as the swing vote. 

Commissioner DiFranco argued that while she had supported backyard hens previously, contact with the community had convinced her that the majority of North Port residents opposed hens. 

Her argument was bolstered by the fact that only three North Port residents argued strongly for hens, and they were offset by three residents (including the ever-entertaining and feisty Buddy Hughes) who argued against. Another citizen thought chickens could be appropriate on large lots with tight regulation. 

Opponents frequently cited property rights ("I don't want to look at coops or cows.") and a concern about property values, although 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 has 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." 

Research presented in a comprehensive study of 100 cities that allow chickens concluded that: "As of yet, no studies have been done on how backyard chickens in particular affect property values, but given that communities express little concern that other pets, such as dogs or cats, reduce property values, and given research showing that pets and urban agricultural practices can increase them, there is little reason to believe that allowing backyard chickens will negatively affect them."*

Commissioners Moore and Yates will need more citizen support if they are to challenge Commissioner DiFranco's conclusion that the community support just isn't there. Of course, the majority of Sarasota City residents never said they favored chickens -- proponents simply demonstrated that allowing chickens posed no discernible threat to residents.

*Illegal Fowl: A Survey of Municipal Laws Relating to Backyard Poultry and a Model Ordinance for Regulating City Chickens by Jaime Bouvier 
Jaime Bouvier is Visiting Legal Writing Professor, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. 

1 comment:

Cheri - The Manic Organic said...

Thank you again for coming out today. The meeting was an embarrassing spectacle.