In a 4-3 decision, the Palm Beach County Commission last week approved a change to the Uniform Land Development Code that will allow livestock to be kept on property in The Acreage and Jupiter Farms.
The change, approved Aug. 23, would protect residents on lots smaller than 2 acres in the agricultural and exurban tiers who are guaranteed the right to keep livestock in the comprehensive plan but previously had no supporting language in the land development code.
However, the commissioners postponed adoption of other rules that would provide further regulation on items such as accessory structures, setbacks and sale of goods, which will be discussed in future workshop sessions.
Zoning Director Jon MacGillis noted that his staff had met with members of the public Aug. 15 as directed by the commissioners, and made some changes to the code in response to that input, including some on the sale of products from the properties.
Commissioner Karen Marcus said the intent of the change initially was to eliminate restrictions on the minimum size of property in The Acreage and Jupiter Farms because a woman in Jupiter Farms had been cited for having a rooster after a neighbor complained about its crowing.
“There are a lot of folks in Jupiter Farms and The Acreage who have less than 2 acres, and we were not aware that they could not have their household chickens, roosters or animals on there,” Marcus said. “My original intent was only to change the acreage size, that’s all. But staff felt they needed to clean up the code so that when another complaint that might come in, they had some very specific criteria there to be able to decide whether to issue a violation or citation.”
Due to the many public opinions expressed on the proposed ordinance, Marcus suggested that the commissioners change only the acreage size for now and postpone the remainder of the proposed ordinance until further review and public input.
“We’re going to hear from the public, obviously, but it would be my suggestion today that if we pass this ULDC change, we only pass the acreage size,” she said. “That would only allow some of the communities to go back to some form of a task force to really talk about the different types of uses. They may all be different, but you’re always going to have someone who doesn’t like the chicken or the rooster or the noise.”
Marcus said eliminating the minimum acreage would not harm anyone and would help anyone in the agricultural and exurban tiers who wish to keep livestock. “I think it helps everybody, and then ask staff to put together a task force to bring back when everybody has had that input, then suggest those changes, because I think the more we’re tweaking it, the more difficult it’s getting,” she said.
MacGillis said the minimum acreage of 2 acres as it exists now is only for hobby bird breeding, and ULDC standards for keeping livestock had never been adopted. Staff explained that the person in Jupiter Farms who had been cited for keeping a rooster was cited under the county’s bird ordinance. The proposed amendments would set standards for keeping livestock, which do not currently exist, and eliminate the minimum acreage for property in the agricultural and exurban tiers.
Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said the e-mails she had received were about changing the ordinance. “I would suggest we not do anything at all to it today, and go back and have some more discussion,” she said. “When you go back and start affecting other areas, to me you’re fixing some areas but opening up another end. Some of their questions sounded rather valid to me.”
Taylor said she would rather postpone approval of the changes and not give any more citations until they work out the details.
Commissioner Burt Aaronson said he would prefer to develop a code that worked on a categorical basis, rather than just for The Acreage and Jupiter Farms. “You can’t just say this area can have this and that area can have that,” he said. “I think you have to look at it countywide.”
Planning, Zoning & Building Executive Director Rebecca Caldwell said her department is charged with protecting the rights of all residents of the county and that the proposed changes were in an effort to achieve that. “We have narrowly tailored these regulations to separate poultry from birds in the development code and to enact a code that protects the rights of the residents in the rural and exurban communities to have domestic livestock,” Caldwell said, explaining that the comp plan says residents can have livestock in those areas but also calls for standards to be enacted. “The language addresses only the standards for accessory structures associated with keeping livestock, and the new standards are more lenient than those currently in the ULDC.”
After listening to hours of input from residents, Caldwell noted that regulations on the sale of products, which is currently not allowed, had been changed. The new proposed regulations would be more lenient, allowing the sale of products grown or raised on-site up to $15,000 in value.
Jupiter Farms resident Melinda Seeman, whose rooster drew the complaint from a neighbor and a subsequent county citation, which led to the development of the proposed new regulations, thanked the commission for its efforts.
“I come here every time and I say thank you for all the work that’s gone into this, and there has been an extraordinary amount of work that has gone into this. In 50 years of living, I’ve never seen so much hoo-ha over chickens. I didn’t move into an HOA, or Pembroke Pines or Boca, or into a condo in Delray with my rooster and ask you to make it OK for him to be there,” she said, explaining that she lives in an agricultural/residential area where there is a guaranteed right to have livestock.
Seeman added that she thought the only problem is that some people don’t understand that a chicken is livestock, not a pet bird.
“You know, I’ve taken personal hits from this on every single side,” she said. “I’ve had people say, ‘Don’t make it personal.’ Well, you know what? It is personal. If you do one thing today, change the definition of a chicken. It’s not a hobby bird. It’s livestock.”
Acreage resident Patricia Curry asked that the commissioners only approve the portion of the ordinance that guarantees residents the right to keep livestock and postpone the rest for further consideration, citing problems with the proposed setback regulations that she said would severely restrict the use of property.
Anne Kuhl of The Acreage asked that the ordinance be postponed because she thought the regulations were restrictive to residents who wish to raise livestock. “Why would we be required to get permits for structures used for keeping our animals?” Kuhl asked.
Marcus made a motion to only insert language into the ULDC to allow livestock on land less than 2 acres and postpone the remaining changes, and it carried 4-3, with Commission Chair Shelley Vana, Aaronson and Taylor opposed.