MANATEE -- A crowd wearing yellow T-shirts celebrated Tuesday after the Manatee County Commission OK'd a plan allowing residents to keep backyard chickens.
For two years, the group had been haunting the commission chamber in an effort to legalize what many of them already did: raise chickens in a residential neighborhood, which was previously not allowed in the county's unincorporated areas.
The commission voted 4-2 to permit it after persistent lobbying by CLUCK, Manatee County's chapter of the Citizens Lobbying for Urban Chicken Keeping. Its members were easy to spot at meetings: They wore bright yellow T-shirts, and sometimes even bright yellow feather boas, too.
Commission Chairman Larry Bustle and Commissioners Michael Gallen, Carol Whitmore and John Chappie voted in favor.
Commissioners Betsy Benac and Vanessa Baugh voted against; and Commissioner Robin DiSabatino was absent.
The board OK'd a new ordinance and changes to the county Land Development Code, allowing residents to keep four female chickens -- no roosters. The birds must be sheltered in a henhouse or chicken coop, officials said.
"We're all excited to be here today," said Robert Kluson, CLUCK co-founder, who said the group patiently researched legal remedies and worked with county staff to accomplish reasonable changes in the law.
"Some commissioners might think of them as 'downward mobility,'" said Bobby Myers. "But many people already have chickens."
Hens raised in the yard of a single-family home provide a fresher, better source of food and eggs than those commercially produced, Myers said. Hens also helped control insects and their droppings make good plant food, he said.
Baugh said she voted against the changes because the county didn't have the personnel to handle any complaints.
In other action, the board:
Picked a combination of two alternatives featured in a January report called "How Will We Grow?" that offered three growth strategies and projected impacts on infrastructure and services.
The board went along with a county staff preference for alternatives emphasizing a west county focus combined with an "activity center" approach. The method of handling growth now stretches infrastructure too far, and fails to provide any type of guidance or certainty, said county planning official John Osborne.
Revised its noise ordinance to make it clear, more enforceable and less likely to be struck down by a court, according to Jim Minix, chief assistant county attorney. Manatee County's ordinance now regulates sound, whatever its source, Minix told the board.
"We're hoping it will provide another way of noise enforcement," he said. "We think it will correct the problem 90 percent of the time."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.