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Chicken ordinance delay doesn't dampen debate

Published:   |   Updated: March 7, 2013 at 04:27 PM

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Even though county commissioners Tuesday delayed taking action on a proposed chicken ordinance allowing up to four fowls in residentially zoned areas, it didn't stop residents from expressing their views one way or another.

The sides seems equally divided, with proponents saying they have a right to house chickens in their backyard and enjoy fresh eggs and critics imploring residents to take their hens to an agricultural district where they belong.

County Commissioner Wayne Dukes, who previously expressed concerns about the proposed ordinance, made the motion to delay discussion until the second public hearing on March 12. Dukes said he wanted to review recent actions by the Tampa City Council, which recently passed a similar ordinance.

County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said he also had concerns regarding deed covenants in subdivisions.

Representatives from the Hernando Builders Association and the Hernando Association of Realtors spoke against the ordinance, fearing it would affect property values and create neighborhood problems.

Resident Mary Mazucco said there are plenty of places people in Hernando County can go to buy fresh eggs if that is their desire.

Mazucco questioned where the line will be drawn on people who want to keep animals other than dogs, cats or birds. That line should not be in residential areas of Spring Hill, she said.

"You can have whatever you want in an agricultural area," she said.

Mazucco and another resident said county commissioners have more important issues than worrying about chickens.

"I like chickens," she said. "But I don't particularly care to have them as neighbors."

The issue was raised after Carol Aquilante, of 5505 Piedmont Drive in Spring Hill, appealed to the county last November to raise chickens in her backyard because the eggs taste much better than store-bought and are healthier.

Because the current ordinance allows chickens only in agriculturally zoned districts, commissioners directed staff to come up with a new one with guidelines.

Aquilante told commissioners Tuesday she was upset the board didn't make a decision because it is difficult for her to take time off from work to attend all these meetings.

Aquilante said it used to be people could have chickens in their yard and that right was taken away.

"All I'm looking for is to keep a few chickens confined," she said.

Aquilante asked permission to at least start building a chicken coop.

Russell said that is her right but added she could not be assured there will be a chicken ordinance to accommodate her.

"We just want to make sure we get it (a proposed ordinance) right," he said. (352) 544-5290

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