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Backyard chickens rule roost in Tampa, not the county

TAMPA — Picture people tending to livestock around their home and you're more likely to think Seffner than South Tampa.

But the Tampa City Council has now opened the door for urban dwellers to pursue the typically rural activity of raising chickens where they live, while Hillsborough County's zoning code flatly prohibits keeping barnyard animals in residential areas.

The Tampa ordinance approved July 18 allows raising chickens at single-family detached homes and duplexes with some conditions.

The rules stipulate that: Roosters are prohibited; chickens must remain within a walled or fenced area at all times; owners can have only one chicken for every 1,000 square feet of yard space; and coops can't be more than 6 feet high or cover more than 125 square feet.

Even with its restrictions, the city ordinance gives Tampa's urban residents a legal way to join a controversial trend in urban living dubbed "backyard chickens.''

Tarpon Springs adopted an ordinance legalizing the practice July 16. Temple Terrace officials are studying alternative legal approaches to an ordinance.

But in unincorporated areas of the county, backyard chickens remain out of bounds, says Hillsborough County Attorney Chip Fletcher.

"There's no mechanism to have chickens in residentially zoned areas," he says. "The county prohibits barnyard animals in residentially zoned areas. Period."

Rural areas of the county are more conservative than Tampa and residents like living in places unfettered by excessive regulation.

The irony of a Tampa ordinance regulating an activity less than the county isn't lost on City Council member Frank Reddick, who was on the losing side of a 5-2 vote in favor of the ordinance.

"It's like it should be reversed,'' says Reddick, who opposes the ordinance. "It makes no sense to me."

He worries that city folk don't understand how much of a nuisance chickens can be.

"I've had experience with chickens," Reddick says. "They've roamed on my property, kicking up flower beds and leaving their droppings all over the sidewalks."

Daniel Faubion of Valrico got into a dispute with the county in April after a home builder working next door reported the 10- by 12-foot coop in his back yard.

Faubion couldn't believe his eight hens and two chicks in the back yard were illegal. But code enforcement officers finally threatened to impose fines up to $5,000 a day if the coop didn't come down, he said.

Faubion took apart the structure and gave it to a friend. He later discovered a group on Facebook called Hillsborough County Citizens for Backyard Poultry. Faubion, a Libertarian, has talked with officials of the state party and local conservatives to change residential zoning rules that outlaw backyard chickens.

"It's crazy,'' he said after Tampa City Council members approved the new ordinance. "I'm happy for Tampa but am just appalled over what Hillsborough County does.

"To most people, it's reverse logic. It's beneficial for Tampa. For the county, it doesn't make sense.''

Some Tampa residents didn't welcome the change approved last week.

"We do not live in the country. We live in the city by choice,'' Lynda Patton, 64, told council members. She has lived on W Ellicott Street in the Plaza Terrace neighborhood for nearly 45 years.

"Because of the few, the rest of us living in single-family homes have no desire to listen to roosters or smell chicken droppings," Patton said. "We'll be forced to simply have it because a few folks would like to raise their own eggs. That's what grocery stores are for, folks."

Staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to his report.

Backyard chickens rule roost in Tampa, not the county 07/24/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 4:04pm]
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