More farm animals allowed on small lots in Viking

OKEECHOBEE — Those who own 1.25-acre lots in the Viking area in Okeechobee County may keep various combinations of farm animals on their property under guidelines approved Sept. 11 by the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners.

Changes in the land use ordinance approved at the Sept. 11 meeting allow property owners in the Viking Rural Activity Center (also called the Prairie) to keep a variety of farm animals.

Before this zoning change, only cows and horses were allowed on lots less than 5 acres.

Community Development Director Bill Royce said the changes make it easier for property owners to understand what is allowed in the zoning district.

The restrictions limit the number of animals per acre using “animal unit equivalents” based on standards developed by the United States Department of Agriculture. The basic unit is one cow with a calf. A mature horse counts as 1.25 units. A sheep counts as 0.2 animal units.

For lots and parcels in the Viking Rural Activity Center, the following limits on farm animals will apply:
• On lots of 1 acre but less than 2 acres, not more than a total of two animal unit equivalent units;
• On lots of 2 acres but less than 3 acres, not more than three animal equivalent units;
• On lots of 3 acres but less than 4 acres, not more than four animal equivalent units;
• On lots of 4 acres but less than 5 acres, not more than five animal equivalent units;
• On lots of 5 acres, not more than six animal equivalent units.

In addition to the livestock equivalent units, up to 12 poultry may also be kept.

Where Class 2 or Class 3 captive wildlife are kept, the number of livestock allowed on the parcel will be reduced by one animal equivalent unit for each Class 2 or Class 3 captive wildlife animal that is kept outdoors. Wildlife enclosures must meet the standards required by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The change in the ordinance also reduces the side and rear setbacks for any building or structure that requires a permit (other than a perimeter fence) from 35 feet to 25 feet.

Any type of domestic farm animal may be kept for a temporary period of time not to exceed six months if the animal is part of a 4-H or FFA project.

For farm animals not listed in the chart, the property owners should provide the county with a statement from a veterinarian about the typical weight of the animal so they can determine the animal unit equivalent, said Royce.

No members of the public commented on the changes.

Commissioner David Hazellief said he received some correspondence from Viking property owners who were pleased with the proposed changes to the ordinance.

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