Meeting with Zoning and Code Enforcement 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 10:58:00 PM

I arrived a little early to my 2:00 PM appointment with the Brevard County Zoning Dept. Asst. Manager, the Code Enforcement Officer and her Supervisor in the Viera, FL government building. I did not expect a resolution to the violation but was hopeful there was a reasonable resolution available so we could keep our sheep.

My game plan was to simply tell them the option to obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or get rid of the sheep was not acceptable and there must be other options we can explore. Once the immediate issue of the violation and the intent to keep the sheep was addressed I intended to shift gears and discuss the process to change the Code to permit traditional homesteading/urban farming.

My preferred first option would be Administrative Relief where the Zoning Dept. can allow us to keep the sheep as an exception to the code.

The second option would be to utilize the 4-H provision for raising lambs to allow us to keep them for six months per calendar year to allow us time to seek a change in Code.

The recommended variance/CUP was my last alternative which would have prevented the violation from being sent to the Special Magistrate for final disposition.

First topic was the resolution stated in the violation to seek a variance and then a Conditional Use Permit. My interpretation of 62-1927 was that we would need to present a medical hardship certification from a doctor and this simply was not the case for us. While the medical hardship was indeed one option listed in code, the variance would negate the medical hardship requirement so obtaining the Conditional Use Permit would not be a lost effort. I also received an offer for assistance with completing the required forms to help ensure they met the requirements. Bottom line, this was not the losing proposition I originally thought it was however I am not at all thrilled about the idea of giving the County $600 for the variance and then $850 for a CUP to keep the eight sheep but not a dime to have eight horses.

I then broached the administrative relief (my preferred) option but this resolution was not available because they are limited to a 10% difference of the lot size which only got us to 2.2 acres of the 2.5 acre minimum.

At this point I dug into the 4-H option since our sheep are all about a year old (Darcy and Freckles) or less and our oldest daughter would qualify by age to be a 4-H member. They agreed if we were to get into a sheep 4-H project that the violation would be put on hold and the clock would start ticking at that time for the six months out of the calendar year.

The outcome of this was we needed to get into 4-H or submit for a variance before 11/7/2011, the date we have to come into compliance with Code.

At this point I shifted gears and started the discussion on how we can change Code to reflect traditional homesteading/urban farming where we can raise our sheep and go beyond one chicken for personal egg production.

The Zoning Dept. Asst. Manager grew up around chickens and personally like the idea of changing Code to allow limited raising of chickens and small animals. She explained the first step was to appeal the Code to the Planning and Development Dept. Director explaining our current situation of being able to have eight horses but not eight sheep and suggest the changes to Code for her to review. If she agreed with our proposed change she would present it to the County Commission but if she did not think it was appropriate we could still pursue it by raising the requested changes at a County Commission hearing.

The Zoning Dept. Asst. Manager provided the necessary forms for the Variance and the Conditional Use Permit. She then asked how the sheep compared to goats to which I explained how much more docile they were in our experience and illustrated how goats like to be on top of things, eat everything and how everything was greener on the other side of the fence whereas the sheep were perfectly content to graze in the fence and if they managed to get out they made a beeline to our neighbor across the street to get acorns to which he was quite happy to have them remove and fertilize at the same time. Everyone present was quite cordial, professional and gave everything I asked or suggested serious consideration indicating a willingness to work with us within the confines of Code and perhaps even provide some insights on how to change code for the better in terms traditional homesteading/urban farming.

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