MASARYKTOWN — Connie Kloss has plenty of room for her birds these days. She's renting a home on 5 acres. In the backyard are dozens of cages filled with about 70 exotic macaws, African Greys and Quaker parrots.
The home is secluded, and there are few neighbors — unlike her old setup in Pasco County. Her landlord doesn't mind the birds. Most importantly, her feathered friends are "happy as clams."
Kloss says she can tell that her birds feel better since they moved about month ago. "Due to all the turmoil and tension, they shut down," said Kloss, who breeds the birds. "Nobody was in the mood for love."
The troubles at her old place began shortly after Kloss bought her Shady Hills home in March. The neighbors on Porsche Place complained about the noise. The flies. One wrote to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Soon Kloss found herself battling county government. Zoning rules limited her 1.3 acre parcel to 26 birds, and Pasco's Planning Commission refused to grant her an exemption. Kloss planned to appeal to the County Commission — until she ran into a permit issue that was the "final blow."
Problems began when a neighbor complained that she installed a vent fan on her aviary without a permit. "That opened up a can of worms that the whole building doesn't have a permit," she said.
She blames the oversight on the property's former owner, Vincent Catalano of Rhode Island. She said when the building was built in 2005, he never applied for a permit. Building codes changed in 2007, and Kloss said the gauge of the steel on the structure does not meet the windstorm standards in the new codes. She would have to tear the building down and start over.
"I cannot get a building permit on it," she said. "It doesn't meet specs."
Tim Moore, head of Pasco's Building Inspection department, said he hadn't seen engineering plans on the building and couldn't confirm it wouldn't meet the new requirements. But if the building doesn't meet codes, he said "it's possible" Kloss might have no choice but to tear it down. Moore said Kloss might have a separate problem because the aviary was built too close to the property line.
Kloss has until mid February to get a permit for the building or take it down. After that, the county levies a $200-a-day fine. Moore said if the home is foreclosed on, the new owner would still have to take care of the problem.
Kloss said she is considering legal action against Catalano because her mortgage said the property was free of legal problems with the government. She said her story should be a warning to new property owners: "Make sure you have all the permits for everything before you buy."
Catalano couldn't be reached for comment.
Kloss said the problem was too costly for her to fix, so she walked away from her mortgage.
"I'm in love with my birds," said Kloss, a 61-year-old registered nurse. "I'm not in love with that property."
Some of her old neighbors are simply glad the only bird they now hear is an occasional cardinal.
"Especially at feeding time, they were horrible," said Barb Oakleaf, who lives across the street from Kloss' old house. "That's the reason why we bought out here, for peace and quiet."
The problems split Porsche Place into two camps: those who would sympathized with Kloss and those who didn't. Gina Kay, another neighbor, generally had no problems with the birds. "Now everybody's fighting," she said, bemoaning the tensions along the rural street. She hopes it will get better now that Kloss left.
During a visit Thursday to Kloss' new home, the birds were quiet until a reporter got to the backyard. Then came a powerful burst of shrieking and screaming. Kloss said they get loud when strangers visit but calm down in about 15 or 20 minutes.
She's new to the area and her home is secluded, but that noise has already stirred tensions with her next door neighbor. She put up a large blue tarp between the houses so he can't see the birds.
He's already reported her to Hernando's Animal Services department.
Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.