Backyard chicken policy: Indian Harbour Beach winging it for a year

Indian Harbour Beach borrowed a page from neighboring Satellite Beach’s book in what’s come to be known as “The Great Chicken Debate,” with the City Council launching a one-year trial period for backyard chickens before making permanent poultry policy.

After one year without incident – except for two hens flying the coop during Hurricane Irma – Satellite Beach endorsed limited backyard chickens within the city. If Indian Harbour Beach allows hobby poultry after its own 12-month trial period, the rules as they stand now could become the most stringent backyard chicken regulations in the county.

The often heated measure for which the council heard nine speakers passed by a 3-2 vote with City Councilman Gene Newberry and Jim Nolan voting against. Voting in favor of allowing backyard chickens with restrictions to be determined were City Councilman Frank Guertin, Mayor Dave Panicola and Deputy Mayor Scott Nickle.

The trial period in effect suspends enforcement for families currently with chickens to give a chance for the council to come up with a slate of rules. City Manager Mark Ryan reported most Brevard cities, and the county as a whole, allow backyard chickens. Limitations often include a total of four hens and no roosters.

Other requirements to be considered for the new ordinance could include: only for single family homes, training, size of coop and related fenced pen, eggs would not be for sale, visual barrier from other homes, and allowing city officials to inspect on site initially and regularly.

Until the matter is resolved and the ordinance amended, Indian Harbour Beach families currently will remain in violation of City Codes which strictly prohibit poultry in the city limits. Under current rules, the city investigates backyard chickens only if there is a complaint, as happened to a family earlier this year, prompting the request. There also was discussion of the new rules requiring a percentage of consent by adjoining neighbors.

Once the ordinance is drafted it will go to the Planning and Zoning Board for review before being considered by the council on final reading.

In other council action, City Councilman Gene Newberry announced his resignation effective at the end of May because he has purchased a second home out of the city for eventual retirement.

Newberry was first elected to the City Council in 1988, following his two years’ tenure on the Planning & Zoning Board.

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