TARPON SPRINGS — Do you want pet chickens? If you live in Tarpon Springs, you may be in luck.
Commissioners voted last week to move forward with a proposal to allow hens in the city, despite squawking from some residents and homeowners associations who said the change would bring nothing but trouble.
Most who showed up at City Hall on Tuesday were in favor of acquiring the feathery pets, and made impassioned appeals to commissioners to let them do so.
"I grew up with goats and lambs and everything else," said resident Joe Reis. "I want to be able to have chickens so I can get colored eggs. Blue, brown, red, white. My kids love that stuff."
Commissioners voted 3-2 to move the proposal forward, with a few small changes.
For example, the city proposed a $100 permit to cover administrative and code enforcement costs. Some thought that was too high, and City Manager Mark LeCouris said he'd research what's reasonable.
Chicken ownership would be limited to residents in single, detached homes, and coops must be screened from neighbors' view. Residents could have no more than four hens; roosters would be prohibited.
Dunedin and Gulfport, which have also recently legalized urban chickens, report mostly good experiences, according to a report by the city staff.
Still, some residents said chickens would cause a nuisance and become a nightmare for code enforcement.
"There are some people who think we shouldn't even be doing this," said Mayor David Archie, referring to the acrimony during a previous meeting in which chickens were discussed.
Archie and Commissioner Susan Slattery voted against the chickens, while Commissioners David Banther, Townsend Tarapani and Jeff Larsen voted in favor. The issue is scheduled to be heard again at the next commission meeting on July 16.
'No' on more homes
In other news, a developer was denied permission to squeeze nine more homes into a large unfinished subdivision on Bayshore Drive after nearly three hours of emotional testimony from neighbors.
Residents warned that the change would increase traffic and flooding and disturb a possibly active eagle's nest on the property. Two residents broke into tears as they testified.
Under the proposed zoning change, developer D.R. Horton could have built 51 homes on 12.3 acres in the Bayshore Heights subdivision. The area is zoned for 42 homes.
The commission denied the change 3-2, despite environmental and other impact studies suggesting that the residents' fears were mostly unfounded.
"I've seen the wildlife, I've seen the eagles, I've seen the turtles," said neighbor Sharon Birkett, pushing back on the environmental study. "There's no purpose other than greed and money to rezone."
Tarapani, Banther and Larsen voted against allowing more homes. Slattery and Archie voted in favor.
Ed Armstrong, attorney for the developer, responded that much of the testimony from residents was based on emotion, not fact, and that commissioners are required by law to consider only hard evidence, such as expert studies.
Always in the air during development decisions is whether the city would be on firm legal ground if a developer sued over a blocked project.
Armstrong said his client is still weighing the next move. The firm could appeal the decision or just walk away and build elsewhere.
"It's not a good situation for the city to have a half-built subdivision," Armstrong said. "I don't think that's in anyone's best interest."
Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 323-0353. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters or mail to 1130 Cleveland St., Suite 100, Clearwater, FL 33755.