September’s arrival of Hurricane Hermine was a scary time for several residents living along the banks of Ware’s Creek. Flooding was particularly severe in an area along 21st Street West, between 12th and 17th Avenues West.
The water rose so fast for the Blanchard family, there was no time to save all of their chickens.
“It looked like it was raging through at about 40 mph,” said Caitlin Blanchard.
The family managed to save all but one of their egg-laying hens but much to their dismay, when the loss was reported in the Bradenton Herald, code enforcement was knocking on their door within a week.
The family was still cleaning up the mess left behind by the flood waters and Blanchard said she, at first, thought it was someone checking on their welfare.
“I honestly didn’t know the city doesn’t allow chickens because Manatee County does. What really irks me is someone from the city came out, not to check on us to see if were OK, but to tell us we had 10 days to get rid of our chickens or spend 60 days in jail,” Blanchard said.
City code states that a violation can carry up to a $500 fine or “imprisonment for a term not exceeding 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment.”
Volker Reiss, community services and code compliance manager, said it’s “nonsense,” noting state law supersedes local law. Only a monetary fine can be imposed, he said, calling into question what the Blanchards reported was said to them.
I cannot control what people tell you.
Volker Reiss, community services and code compliance manager
“I cannot control what people tell you,” Reiss said. “Reading the document, it looks like a somewhat more cooperative approach was taken.”
According to the report, code enforcement officer Mark Runnals investigated the complaint on Sept. 7, when the Blanchards insist they were threatened with jail time.
Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff read about the chickens in the Herald and had a conversation with code enforcement, according to the report. Reiss confirmed it was that conversation that sparked the investigation, but Roff said the conversation was not meant to be an initiation of a complaint.
“Given the history of what the council went through regarding farm animals in the city, I’m pretty sure I was joking when I had that conversation,” Roff said. “I remember it being in the paper, but I’m at city hall every day and I talk to everybody about what’s going on. I never told (code enforcement) to go after anyone.”
Roff said the city began discussions around 2006 to ban farm animals within city limits and eventually passed an ordinance a few years later.
But we had to go further than just chickens because there were some whose culture it is to purchase a hog and slaughter them in their driveway.
Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff
“We had a real problem with wild chickens in the Village of the Arts at that time,” Roff said. “But we had to go further than just chickens because there were some whose culture it is to purchase a hog and slaughter them in their driveway. This is a city and people choose to live in cities for a reason.”
Roff said it’s not uncommon for him to get calls from residents complaining about neighbors who suddenly have some type of farm animal, but he was not aware of the Blanchards’ chickens until the article. Reiss also confirmed there were no complaints about the chickens on record.
Code enforcement closed out the case on Oct. 5. Blanchard said they found the chickens a new home, but she remains shocked at the way her family was treated and the loss of what she considers to be family pets to her three young children.
“We loved having the organic eggs and the chickens were a great agricultural lesson for my children,” Blanchard said. “They would take care of them and they loved them, too. They all cried when we had to let them go.”