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Couple may raise animals

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By Chris Van Ormer

 LECANTO — A couple who recently retired to Citrus County to enjoy a rural lifestyle with several livestock animals on their acreage hit a snag when they tried to build a barn.

“We assumed, based on the title search and what the builder told us, that it was agricultural because it had an agricultural exemption on it at the time of the purchase,” Larry J. Hearold Jr. told the Citrus County Planning and Development Commission (PDC) at its meeting on Thursday. “What we did not realize …   is that an agricultural exemption ends with a change of ownership.”

This fact Hearold and his wife, Irene, found out when they applied for a permit to build a barn. First, the couple had to appear before the PDC to apply for a conditional-use permit to allow them to raise animals for their own enjoyment in a medium-density residential land-use designation.

In their application, the Hearolds requested permission to raise as many as four horses, one goat, 10 poultry and five rabbits within about 4.81 acres of land on West Rusk Lane in Lecanto. Currently, they own two horses that they brought from Massachusetts, but no other animals. The numbers and types of animals would be allowed under a schedule in Section 3730 in the county’s Land Development Code.

Hearold said his application was tailored to the schedule.

“The chances of us having any rabbits are one in a zillion,” Hearold said.

The couple, however, would like to raise their own hens for fresh eggs.

PDC member Ron Lundburg asked if the previous owners kept animals. Hearold said he had heard from neighbors that the previous owners kept cattle on the acreage and that is why they had an agricultural exemption.

PDC member Joe Chrietzberg asked staff about the schedule for animal numbers.

“If these animals breed and multiply, are they violating an ordinance?” Chrietzberg asked.

Jenette Collins, Land Development Division director, said the code allowed the offspring to be raised on the parcel until they were able to live independently of the mother.

The PDC voted unanimously to grant the request, with conditions.

“Enjoy your animals,” said PDC Chairwoman Zana Ennis.

Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer can be reached at 352-564-2916 or cvanormer@chronicleonline.com.