Editor's Note: This column was published in the print editions of The Lehigh Acres Citizen. Due to a computer problem, the fraction 1/4 was removed. The fraction is written out in this column, denoting one-quarter acre lots.
I am writing on behalf of the hundreds of members of the Country Club Estates Association (CCEA) that are overwhelmingly opposed to the keeping and/or raising of chickens in an established residential neighborhood.
CCEA is not a snobbish group as our name may suggest to some. The entrance to our deed restricted, not gated, neighborhood is located across the street (Joel Blvd.) from the original Admiral Lehigh Golf Course - hence the name. We are a community of concerned residents trying to maintain our properties by cooperation, not confrontation. The rules are simple and explicit. Please visit us and see for yourselves.
Our neighborhood is fully developed and consists of about 600 individual parcels of one-quarter acre (approximately 100 feet by 120 feet) building lots. Only a very few remain vacant.
The diversity of CCE is evident by the ethnic backgrounds of our residents. Our welcome mat is extended to all who want to live in a deed restricted area. Do not force us to lower our standards to accommodate one or two individuals who want to raise or keep farm animals.
Many of us, in our earlier lives, lived or worked on or near farms and that is the reason we now choose to live in a residentially zoned neighborhood. We bought in good faith and paid a premium for it. No one I have spoken with is against raising farm animals in agriculturally zoned spaces.
There are basically two choices that can be made:
(1) Abandon all Lee County zoning ordinances and allow all landowners to do whatever they want on their properties. As we all know, this would result in utter chaos.
(2) Follow the ordinances currently in effect that have evolved and have been enacted by the wisdom of your predecessors. They knew single residences and farm animals do not belong together. The ordinances were enacted to preclude or solve problems, not to create more.
We must deal with facts and not emotions in this issue. Before any changes are made to the current ordinances, the following questions and many others must be carefully answered while looking to the future:
(1) How will Lee County Commissioners deal with the decreased tax revenues, sure to result when assessments plummet, if farm animals are permitted in residentially zoned neighborhoods?
(2) What damage will be done to Lee County's tourist destination image? Does Lee County want to be known as the friendliest chicken county between Tampa and Miami?
(3) What about our winter residents, both national and international, that are not here now to express their views on the matter? They will see their investment being eroded and many will want out. Not a good image to project.
(4) How would the commissioners keep the odor, flies, and other chicken nuisances from the neighboring one-quarter acre parcels? An impossibility.
(5) How would the Commissioners handle the slaughter of farm animals on one-quarter acre residential lots? That's the reality of farming when animals no longer produce.
(6) How would the commissioners handle the manure problem on one-quarter acre lots? Chicken manure cannot be applied directly to plants, it must first be composted. If this is not done properly, the resulting odor and flies will choke the neighborhood.
(7) What about vermin? Chickens eat grain. Rodents eat grain. Snakes eat rodents. Raccoons, possum and bobcats eat all of the above. This is what awaits us if the commissioners allow chickens into residential neighborhoods.
(8) How do chicken raisers contain the offensive problems on their one-quarter acre parcel and not share them with the neighborhood? Impossible.
(9) How will the commissioners handle the increased number of complaints that are sure to follow? How many additional code enforcement officers will be required and at what cost to taxpayers?
(10) The unpermitted chicken coop built at 1513 Canal Place, Lehigh Acres, now sits unsecured and unfinished. It was not constructed in accordance with Lee County wind requirements and standards. The codes enforcement officers currently are not allowed to enforce the existing ordinances. The coop and its associated construction debris are potential missiles awaiting our first big blow.
Will the commissioners accept legal responsibility for damages that may occur? The residence also houses a rooster which violates all current ordinances. This folly must end.
The codes enforcement department is doing a splendid but thankless job. Each person that I have met or talked with has acted in a very professional manner. Lee County can be proud of them.
We are asking commissioners, untie their hands and allow them to do what we as taxpayers are paying for, enforcement.
I sent a petition signed by more than 600 residents of Country Club Estates to Commissioner Frank Mann. I can only recall four residents that would not sign it. This is an overwhelming majority of 99.4 percent of residents against allowing chickens into residential neighborhoods.
The people have spoken and we vote.
Now it is up to the commissioners to end this fiasco for the law abiding residents of unincorporated Lee County.
I have dealt only with facts and not emotions. We must not open a door that we cannot close.
Stan Damon is vice president of CCEA. He lives on Archer St. in Lehigh Acres. Ed.