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Port Orange Observer Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018 7 months ago

Urban chickens find a home in Port Orange

Port Orange City Council opted to implement permanent regulations for keeping chickens in residential homes.
by: Lurvin Fernandez Staff Writer

Chickens didn't ruffle many feathers over the last year and a half, so Port Orange City Council opted to let them stay permanently. 

In February 2017, City Council approved the two-year Temporary Urban Chicken Pilot Program to allow up to 30 households in the city to keep up to five hens. City planning manager Penelope Cruz said five permits have been issued since the start of the program.

The program's expiration date was set for January 2019, unless City Council chose to extend it for another two years or adopt a permanent ordinance. If it chose to end the program, permit holders would have received notices to remove their chickens by the end of January. 

City Council directed staff on Oct. 2 to bring back an ordinance to make the urban chicken regulation permanent, and it is anticipated to be a permanent program in January.

The ordinance requires the property to be an owner-occupied, single family residence. Owners also need a 6-foot tall opaque fence to screen the chicken coop, and setbacks for the coop and pen are similar to current shed setbacks. 

Prior to receiving permit approval, chicken owners were also required to complete a class on keeping chickens through the University of Florida Agricultural Extension Service or through a similar organization.

Cruz said one complaint was emailed to city staff regarding sanitary conditions. Code enforcement inspected the property and found the chicken coop was clean and compliant with city regulations. Animal Control also received a noise complaint, but the property also was compliant with the program's requirements. 

Residents currently holding permits spoke at the City Council meeting on Oct. 2 in support of extending the program or making it permanent. 

Carol Banning said when City Council first addressed urban chickens more than a year ago, it was not sure if chickens would be welcomed in residential areas, but tight regulations that require a privacy fence and a coop and that do not allow roosters have made it possible.

She has not had issues with complaints, escaping chickens, disease transmission or feathers blowing throughout her neighborhood. She also said night-vision cameras around her property have not shown rats moving into her coop. 

"It has been very mundane, and it's relaxing to have (the chickens) around," she said. 

Sharon Herr said she spent about $1,000 setting up a fence and coop to be compliant with the code and that it would be a shame to bring it all down. She also said she personally has not received complaints about her five hens and that she enjoys keeping her own chickens. 

Scott Pontius said he also spent thousands of dollars setting up his coop, and his neighbors, particularly local children, also benefit from getting fresh eggs from his chickens. 

"It's a cool thing, the neighbors and kids like it, and it's harmless," he said. "I think children should get more involved with things like this … and that's why we support the program."

Councilman Scott Stiltner was still not a fan of a permanent ordinance. 

He said there are areas in the city where chickens would fit in and other areas where they would generate complaints or issues between neighbors. 

City manager Jake Johansson suggested they send a notice to active homeowners associations about the coming change to give them enough time to update their rules to permit or allow chickens before the ordinance becomes permanent. 

Councilman Bob Ford said he likes chickens, and he joked his wife is concerned about the ordinance because she is afraid he may get some. However, he said his philosophy as a government official is to interfere as little as possible with people's lives. 

"If you like them, you can have them, as long as you're not bothering your neighbors," he said.





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