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Chickens, tent sales and food trucks: Hernando has new rules for all three

Chicken permits no longer need neighbor approval, tent sales must be connected to an adjacent business, and food trucks can’t operate on vacant property.
BRENDAN FITTERER | Times Carol Aquilante of Spring Hill visits with her four chickens in their backyard coop Thursday afternoon. The white leghorns provide her with fresh eggs daily, and are friendly and social with her. She's had them since they were two days old, and they're coming up on a year soon. [BRENDAN FITTERER | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 10

BROOKSVILLE — The days of out-of-county auto dealer tent sales in Hernando County parking lots are over. And now residents can get permission for backyard chickens without the okay of their neighbors.

Those were the two big changes unanimously approved by Hernando County Commissioners this week when they updated their ordinance on administrative permits.

A discussion several months ago about tent sales prompted a review of all special-use permit rules. Commissioners voiced concern about how out-of-county vendors could come to Hernando under the old rules to set up special sales of everything from cars to furniture.

Commissioners thought that provided them an unfair advantage over county-based dealers, who buy land, build a business, pay property taxes and must follow building and development rules.

Under changes approved to the ordinance, only tent sales on the property of the related business will be allowed. They can be permitted three times a year for up to 14 days each.

Exceptions to the stricter rules are allowed for seasonal sales, such as the sale of Christmas trees, flowers, fireworks and pumpkins.

Several weeks ago, on the first reading of the potential permit changes, Commissioner John Allocco proposed another permit change, one for backyard chicken permits. He said the rule requiring neighbors to provide written permission for someone to have chickens in a residential area was too prohibitive.

Chicken permit holders already have a list of other rules they must follow. The cannot have roosters, only hens. The size, placement and features of their coop are clearly outlined in the ordinance. And they can have only four chickens and no other kinds of poultry.

The new rules were welcomed by Carol Aquilante, the Spring Hill resident who spearheaded the county’s backyard chicken ordinance in 2011 against strong lobbying by local real estate interests. They were concerned about chickens hurting property values in the midst of the recession. Aquilante had chickens until an injury forced her give them up several years ago.

After Allocco’s comments last month, Aquilante contacted the county, saying she supported the change, because she intends to have chickens and fresh eggs again. She was not sure that one of her neighbors — a landowner who rents out his home — would be willing to go through the written approval process. She welcomed the rule change.

The discussion on conditional-use permits also prompted Commissioner Steve Champion to question whether the county was properly regulating food trucks. He was concerned that they compete with brick-and-mortar restaurants and said that some were making the county look sloppy.

Before the rule change, food trucks were permitted for up to one year, and only one was allowed per property.

The new rules prohibit food trucks on rights of way or on vacant property and make it clear they must be on a property owner’s land with their written permission. Those that park on public property must have the proper event permitting, and all must post the applicable permits, licenses and permissions on their stands.

The changes were based on a review by county development services staff of how other jurisdictions handle such mobile businesses.

County zoning administrator Chris Linsbeck answered several questions from commissioners. While only one truck per business parking lot is allowed, he said, that won’t limit the kinds of foods a business might have available for its customers, because "some of these food trucks have extensive menus.''

Trucks that move from place to place frequently are not regulated, and that includes ice cream trucks, Linsbeck said.


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