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Advocates hope to change City Zoning Code to allow hens on most Duval County properties.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, May. 16, 201312:00 PM EST

Legislation to allow backyard hens drafted for City Council

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The effort to amend the City zoning code to allow residents to raise chickens in low-density residential districts Tuesday moved a step closer to being proposed.

City Council members Doyle Carter and Don Redman met with a group of backyard hen advocates to review draft legislation that, if approved by Council, would allow small-scale poultry production in most areas of Duval County.

Draft legislation was presented to amend Section 656 of the zoning code to allow no more than eight hens to be kept on properties of 1 acre or less.

Eight additional hens could be allowed for each 21,780 square feet of property over 1 acre.

Roosters would be allowed only in areas zoned rural or for agricultural use.

“It looks like a fine first effort. It’s a fair-and-square way of looking at the issue,” said Fred Atwill, a consultant working with hensforjax.com, a website established by Lauren Trad.

The site, which went online two years ago, has collected more than 2,000 signatures in support of home-raised hens.

The draft document included a requirement that the chickens be provided shelter and that the shelter be required to be no less than 10 feet from any property line.

Redman said he is concerned about writing such a requirement into the legislation, asking who would enforce such measures.

Atwill said he would see no problem in striking the minimum-distance requirement.

Zoning code regulating accessory structures on private property requires any structure, for example a doghouse, must be at least 5 feet from any property line and cannot be located in a front yard, said Folks Huxford, current City Planning Division chief.

Council member Matt Schellenberg attended the meeting and said a resident raised concerns at a meeting of the Council Land Use and Zoning Committee about chicken waste and disease.

Trad said a small flock of fowl composts its own waste and chickens are no more subject to disease than other birds or common house pets, based on research conducted by the University of Floridas Agricultural Extension Service.

Dylan Reingold, of the City General Counsel’s Office, said he would rewrite the proposed legislation to strike the minimum-distance language and ensure the proposed change does not conflict with other zoning requirements. He said the second version could be ready for introduction to Council as soon as May 28.

Redman said he has received comments from only two people who are in opposition to poultry in residential zones since the discussion began.

“I don’t see any reason we shouldn’t go along with this legislation,” he said.

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