110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Dec 17, 2013 - 3:51:52pm
UPDATED THURSDAY, DEC. 19 — After a hearing with some contentious comments from both residents and council members in DeBary City Council Chambers last night, Wednesday, Dec. 18, the DeBary City Council voted 5-0 to approve the resolution allowing J.J. Hart to keep his three chickens. The Hart family will be required to follow the same requirements imposed by the pilot ordinance that council voted against keeping Dec. 4.
A change in the resolution's language will not require J.J.'s family to submit annual proof of his disability, however. The ordinance will allow chickens to be kept at the residence as long as J.J. lives there.
Read the full story in the print edition of The Beacon.
PREVIOUSLY REPORTED —J.J. Hart may get to keep his chickens, although the DeBary City Council quashed an ordinance that would have allowed chickens in residential areas.
On Dec. 4, the City Council voted 3-2 against continuing DeBary’s pilot chicken program. That meant J.J., whose parents got him chickens for a form of therapy, would have had to give up his fowl at the end of the year.
Now, however, the City Council will consider granting J.J. Hart and his chickens "reasonable accommodation under the Federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts," at the urging of Hart family attorney Mark Nation.
Nation talked with DeBary City Manager Dan Parrott Dec. 9, and said he informed the city that federal laws protecting the disabled would be violated if J.J.’s chickens are removed.
Ashley and Joseph Hart have maintained that their son, who is autistic, is talking and interacting with people more after caring for his small chicken flock.
Parrott said the County Council will consider a reasonable accommodation for the chickens under the Fair Housing Act, at a special meeting set for Dec. 18.
The resolution that will go before the City Council notes "the City of DeBary has received substantial evidence that the child of Ashleigh C. Hart who currently resides at 74 West Highbanks Road, DeBary, Florida 32713, has been diagnosed with a disability, handicap or other physical or mental impairment pursuant to applicable federal and Florida law," and the city wants to grant "reasonable accommodation" for J.J.
If the City Council approves the resolution, J.J. would be able to keep three hens, the same number that was permitted under the pilot program. Also, the Harts will have to submit proof of his disability or handicap each year, and document that the chickens are used therapeutically.
Ashleigh Hart said she's willing to comply with the requirement, although she doesn't see the need for it.
"Once you have been diagnosed with autism, it doesn't go away," she said.
Ashleigh said she's glad for the resolution on J.J.'s account, but she's not happy that other residents won't be able to keep any chickens. One reason the City Council decided not to continue the pilot chicken program, however, is that the Harts were the only residents who applied for a chicken permit.
Hart said she hopes supporters will fill the City Council Chambers during the 6 p.m Wednesday, Dec. 18, meeting in City Hall 16 Colomba Road.
Will the council approve the resolution?
Mayor Bob Garcia and City Council Member Lita Handy-Peters, who voted in favor of continuing the pilot ordinance, have indicated they favor the resolution.
Council Member Nick Koval, who was firmly against continuing the chicken program, said Dec. 13 he had not decided how he will vote.
Council Member Dan Hunt, who also voted against extending the ordinance, seemed ready to approve the resolution, nonetheless.
"I'm inclined to go that way," he said, adding that he would hear what the city attorney and city manager recommend before making a decision.
Vice Mayor Chris Carson had not responded to an inquiry at press time. He voted against extending the pilot chicken program on Dec. 4.
If the council doesn't approve the resolution, the city faces the possibility of a federal lawsuit charging refusal to make accommodation for the handicapped.
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