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Jacksonville, FL (June 22, 2021) – The City of Jacksonville in 2015 adopted Bill 2015-337 authorizing the permitting of backyard hens in residentially zoned areas or neighborhoods after a two-year pilot program. This permission would allow property owners to have up to five (5) chickens with the allowance of more on lots larger than one (1) acre. The process to get a permit only includes a one-time $25 non-refundable permit fee and the proof that the applicant has completed the chicken keeping seminar at the Duval County Agriculture Extension Office.

As part of that legislation, certain requested neighborhoods, neighborhood associations and Homeowner Associations, by declaration within the bill, could “Opt-In” or could “Opt-Out” of this allowance to permit backyard hens. As some neighborhoods covenant and restrictions already declared that backyard hens are not allowed, the permitting process placed the burden of complying with this restriction on the applicant, as the permit from the city was issued regardless, only noting that the applicant must abide by their specific neighborhood rules for final permission.

As often found when new policies or regulations are created, real world application of good intentions often lead to loop-holes or short sightedness of how the process will be circumvented. This ordinance to allow for backyard hens turned out to be no different. As such, permits have been issued and in one instance that got the attention of Council Member Becton, an applicant within a District 11 Home Owner community, got their city permit and without regard to the covenant and restriction of their own neighborhood, began to raise the backyard hens as a result of “the city gave me a permit, therefore, I am allowed”, ignoring the fact that their specific neighborhood did not permit chickens.

The result of this situation, caused a major confrontation between the Homeowner Association and the resident, costing both, thousands of dollars in legal fees, time and unnecessary dispute between parties that just did not have to be. As a result, Council Member Becton in reviewing the unfortunate situation that occurred, introduced Bill 2021-222 to modify the current process in hopes to eliminate this unnecessary circumstance which pitted neighbor against neighbor and wasted so much time and money.

Bill 2021-222, approved by City Council, modifies the application process to make clear that issuance of a permit does not superseded deed restrictions or Homeowner’s or Neighborhood Associations Covenants, Bylaws or Regulations. In order to enforce that fact, the permitting process was simply changed to have the application now require the applicant to attest whether their property is located within a Deed Restricted Neighborhood and/or has a Homeowner’s, Neighborhood or Master Association. As a result of that certification in the affirmative, the application now requires an additional certification form be signed by a corporate officer of that Homeowner or Neighborhood Association attesting to the same.

It is my hope that this Bill avoids neighborhood disputes in the future”, Council Member Becton acknowledged. “It was obvious in this specific situation that occurred that for those applicants who look to have backyard hens, it can be an emotionally charged situation, especially when those hens are deemed as pets”, Council Member Becton added.In avoidance of a resident having to give up their pets after the fact, perhaps by the certification of all parties involved, these disputes can be avoided”, Council Member Becton concluded.

In advising other Deed Restricted communities, Council Member Becton suggest that all members of Boards for neighborhood associations, look at their specific Covenant and Restrictions and/or Bylaws for the “allowance of” or “restriction to” the permitting of chickens. If not clear on the allowance for or against these animals, then make sure it clear to avoid these unfortunate situations in the future.