LEE COUNTY — Ever thought about buying a flock of chickens and raising them in your yard as a cheap, ethical and sanitary alternative to buying meat and eggs at the grocery store?
Put those plans on the back burner if you live in Lee County.
Commissioners failed Tuesday to make a motion to bring the county’s zoning ordinance regarding chickens up for debate at a future public hearing, meaning they won’t vote on whether or not to change the current ordinance.
The issue came before commissioners a few weeks ago after two Lehigh Acres property owners were cited for keeping chickens in a residential neighborhood. Those property owners and others responded by petitioning the county to change its chicken rules.
The Lee ordinance only allows farm animals on properties larger than an acre that are outside the Fort Myers city limits.
“The response has been overwhelmingly against (changes),” said Commissioner Frank Mann, whose district includes Lehigh Acres. “My inclination is to do nothing.”
The county planning staff looked at 35 different communities in Florida and other states to get a sense of how other areas were dealing with chicken ordinances.
Planning chief Mary Gibbs said two-thirds of the communities didn’t allow chickens in residential lots smaller than an acre. Gainesville, Fla. allows chickens in residential areas, but Gibbs said enforcing the ordinance there is practically impossible. She said changing the ordinance would also require the county permit smaller chicken operations.
“We’re not discounting that it’s a move toward sustainability, but we’ve found that it’s cheaper to buy eggs at the store,” Gibbs said.
Commissioner Brian Bigelow said he’d like to hear further discussion on the issue, especially if the county is going to justify adding an Office of Sustainability.
“This is the just the tip of the iceberg of changing trends if we’re doing to be leaders in developing sustainable communities,” Bigelow said. “This is not just something we can just throw to the wayside because it can be difficult to enforce.”
Bob Marino of Lehigh Acres attended the meeting, “just to make sure I don’t miss my chance to talk about this.”
Marino brought the deed to his home to show that it is a restricted community that doesn’t allow chickens in residential areas.
“I don’t want this in a deed-restricted area,” Marino said. “We don’t need chickens.”