Holmes Beach clucks it up, hens OK’d

Got chickens?

If not, Holmes Beach residents can have them now.

Commissioners approved March 12 the final reading amending the city’s ordinance that prohibits farm animals in residential zones. The change allows up to four chickens per household.

Commission Chair Jean Peelen opened the floor to public comment, but there no objections to the amendment were heard.

There was, however, one objection from the dais. Commissioner David Zaccagnino moved to approve the second reading with Commissioner Marvin Grossman seconding the motion. Peelen and Commissioner Judy Titsworth voted for the amendment, while Commissioner Pat Morton had doubts and showed them by making a protest demonstration.

Morton pulled out a stuffed rooster from under his seat, complete with a crowing soundtrack. The unusual protest drew plenty of laughs, but didn’t convince his fellow commissioners to change their minds or their vote.

Morton voted against the amendment, saying, “I think we are opening up a can of worms here.”

The motion passed by a 4-1 vote, but there are some restrictions to raising chickens in Holmes Beach. Although Morton displayed a stuffed rooster at the dais, roosters are not allowed.

The ordinance prohibits the slaughtering of chickens and selling chicken products, including eggs. Chickens may not be kept within 10 feet of an adjacent property line and must be at least 25 feet away from a neighboring home.

Homeowners wishing to raise chickens are responsible for odors and must ensure the animals are well cared for and both the animal and its feed are free of pests.

In other matters, commissioners unanimously approved the reappointment of Dan Hardy and Sean Murphy to the police pension board.

Acting Holmes Beach Police Chief Dale Stephenson has served on the board for 25 years, but is stepping down in April. Stephenson said he commends those who sought to be appointed to the board, but said the pension process is complicated and now was not the time to lose the experience Hardy and Murphy provide.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino, commission liaison to the pension board, praised the board’s work and the pension plan.

“Our police pension comes out smelling like a rose despite the worst recession since the Great Depression,” he said. “Other cities have had to go into savings and put millions into pensions because those pension boards have not done a good job.

“Our pension program is 100 percent funded and it will remain that way with those two remaining on the board and David remaining as liaison,” said Stephenson. “It’s very important to keep that plan solvent and moving forward.”

Peelen said Holmes Beach is rich in qualified volunteers, praising current board members and others seeking to serve the city. Zaccagnino moved to reappoint Murphy and Hardy to the pension board, which was seconded by Morton. The motion passed 5-0.

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