Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sarasota County Takes a Step

On March 8th, 2016, the Sarasota County Commission voted 4-1 to move forward, with Commissioner Robinson voting NO. 

There is some confusion about what they are expecting. The Clerk's microphone wasn't on when she restated the motion -- we believe staff is supposed to respond in 60 days with a report. Then, based on the report, the Commission would vote to advertise a hearing, or not.

This is not the action CLUCK sought, although it is movement in a forward direction. CLUCK had hoped the Commission would direct staff to modify the City of Sarasota ordinance as needed and bring it back to the Commission so they could direct staff to advertise a hearing. Commissioner Robinson argued against that, while Commissioner Hines clearly supported that approach. 

Over a year ago (February 18, 2015) Planning Staff gave the Commission a report on chickens and asked for direction from the Commission  (See 2. Below). Even though it had taken a year, we assumed the next step would be to direct staff to draft an ordinance (or tell CLUCK it was never going to happen). Instead the Commission asked for yet another report. 

Points the Commission apparently wants addressed in the next staff report:

• Provision of ample warning to mandatory HOAs to allow them to clarify their policy on chickens so that they can avoid any "grandfathering" issues

• Information from the City of Sarasota staff regarding their experience.

• What zoning categories staff would recommend for inclusion (this might be a menu for board discussion)

• Addressing concerns raised in the Sheriff's March 4th Memorandum, particularly

• Clarifying the respective roles of Animal Services and Code Enforcement. 

• The basis of projections or assumptions regarding financial impact

• Proposed strategies for dealing with unwanted chickens

• Approaches to minimizing the sale of cockerels (incipient roosters)

• Assessment of relative risk of zoonotic disease and strategies to minimize that risk. 

Jennifer Schlinger-Ziegler Re-ignites County Chicken Campaign

Jennifer Schlinger-Ziegler lives in a zoning district that allows backyard chickens. But the dimensions of her property don't allow her to meet the onerous (50 foot) setback restrictions. When a neighbor turned her chickens in, she swung into action and, as a result, the Sarasota County Commission will be considering moving forward. Here is the email CLUCK sent to the Commissioners:


Commissioners: On Tuesday March 8th you will be discussing backyard hens, possibly for the first time in 476 days (the matter of sentinel chickens was a separate, but related, issue).  

At that time a majority of the Board asked backyard chicken advocates to demonstrate that the level of community interest warranted moving forward:

Commissioner Mason: "I'd like to see just how much interest there is out there before asking staff to look into this further."

Commissioner Caragiulo: ". . .we don't want to put a burden of basically get everyone to agree to a point and then bring it back to us."   "I think it's a worthwhile discussion certainly. -- Frankly you do have gauge if there's any interest."

Commissioner Hines: "Before we change our zoning code, I think we ask is there a public interest in doing this beyond, you know,  five, ten, twenty people -- is there a public interest to do this?     And, so, rather than us trying to go out and explore that public interest. . ."  "We asked the folks to go out and maybe get some petitions signed or some information -- not necessarily bring in a bus of two hundred people (interruption)  and public comments to do it and to see if there's interest and that hasn't occurred . . "    "Maybe the timing is right, but if there's only twenty or thirty people in the county that wants this. . . that's what we've not heard". 

Commissioner Maio did not comment during the discussion.  

Tomorrow CLUCK will present additional petition signatures from Sarasota County residents that will bring the total submitted to you to over 1,260, which is 42 times more than thirty people threshold suggested by Commissioner Hines. 

In addition, we have over 900 members of our Sarasota C.L.U.C.K. Facebook group, although we have no easy way of discerning how many live in Sarasota County. 

But wait, there's more! 

I am attaching comments submitted by close to 500 people explaining why they support backyard hens in Unincorporated Sarasota County.

Sarasota CLUCK believes now is the time to act on this citizen initiative. Here's why:

• The experience in the City of Sarasota has been positive. Following the two year trial period the City Commission voted unanimously to make the changes permanent. Although many County residents believe they should be allowed to have more hens than City residents, CLUCK is suggesting the County start with the City approach to facilitate both education and enforcement. 

• Through the collection of signatures, CLUCK has demonstrated significant citizen interest, fulfilling the challenge issued by the Board in 2014

• CLUCK supports the City of Sarasota provision affirming that rules adopted by the boards of mandatory homeowner associations will take precedence over the County changes. In addition, CLUCK could accept a 90 period before any change would take effect to allow any homeowner Boards a chance to amend their rules. 

• Informal conversations with two of the largest neighborhood groups suggest a County approach modeled on the City of Sarasota would not be unduly controversial.

It is our hope, based on these facts, that the Commission will finally instruct staff to propose changes, based as closely as practicable on the successful City of Sarasota experience, that could be brought to the Board for consideration and subsequently advertised for a hearing.