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Oldsmar officials will talk about whether to allow backyard chickens

OLDSMAR — For decades, chickens have been outlawed in Oldsmar neighborhoods.

Or, at least, that was the intent of the city regulations that prohibit livestock in residential zoning districts, said council member Jerry Beverland.

But council member Janice Miller said it's time for a change.

"We need hens in this green era," Miller said at this week's City Council meeting.

The city should craft an ordinance modeled after the one the county passed in December, she said. It prohibits roosters and allows up to four hens in backyard pens.

Mayor Jim Ronecker said he wasn't sure many residents even want them. He's heard from just one person in the city of about 13,600 people.

But Miller said people like the idea of having their own chickens because they know what the hens are being fed and that they'll produce healthy eggs.

Those active in the Oldsmar Organic Community Garden are especially interested, she said Tuesday, and she "thought some of them would be here tonight, but anyway ..."

"They were chicken," teased Vice Mayor Doug Bevis.

But a couple weren't too chicken to talk to the Tampa Bay Times.

"I'd love to have some chickens," said Virginia Cash-Renbjor, 55, president of the organic community garden group. "I think it'd be cool to go out and get eggs and move the chicken coop throughout your yard so you can get fertilizer in your yard."

Another group member, Judy Black, a self-described hippie from Oregon, said she'd also like to have two or three hens.

Miller and City Council member Linda Norris are "pro-hen." Other city leaders say they're willing to look at city regulations to see if they need to be changed to either allow hens or to make it clear that they're prohibited.

The city code generally says it is "a public nuisance and unlawful" to keep livestock or grazing animals in residential areas. That means the code may "allow hens, roosters, ostriches, whatever," Bevis said.

Ronecker said he's got nothing against hens, but he is concerned about how they would impact neighbors who are not fond of them and about other code enforcement issues that may arise.

"It could create new issues, and we'd have to look at those," Ronecker said.

City leaders plan to discuss hens again in March. They asked City Attorney Tom Trask to draft an ordinance modeled after the county's. He also plans to draft a definition of livestock in case city leaders decide to continue the ban on chickens.

St. Petersburg, Largo, Gulfport, Dunedin and Belleair allow backyard chickens. Safety Harbor voted down a similar measure in August, citing concerns about noise and odor.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4155. Go to tampabay.com/letters to write a letter to the editor.

Oldsmar officials will talk about whether to allow backyard chickens 02/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 9, 2012 8:02pm]
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