Levy County approves ordinance updates

Levy County Commissioner John Meeks.
Levy County Commissioner John Meeks at the Tuesday meeting.
Photo by Glory Reitz

In the first half of an eight-hour meeting, the Levy County Board of County Commissioners approved amendments to several county ordinances after removing some planned adjustments to minimum acreage requirements for animals and minimum square feet for single-family homes. 

Among a large set of proposed changes that reached their second and final hearing on Tuesday was an amendment that would require minimum acreage for different kinds of farm animals, and that a single-family dwelling to be at least 750 square feet. 

Several citizens attended the meeting to speak against the minimum acreage. They pointed out that the commission may be concerned about animal abuse cases, but not everyone with multiple animals on a small lot is mistreating them. 

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“I do realize that a small acreage becomes a problem, but there are some of us out here that know how to take care of animals,” Deborah Owens, citizen and former compliance officer for the Department of Agriculture. “I think this is unfair to anyone that owns a horse. This is my livelihood, and you will wreck me.” 

The amendment introduced a table to show the requirements, allowing per acre two ruminants, one pig or horse, and 20 fowl or rabbits. 

Citizens also pointed out that some people raise animals for food on less than half an acre of property, and if the county code requires them to have at least half an acre to own a cow, they could lose a major food source. 

Ken Griffin, owner of Shed Ranch, spoke up in public comment to ask the commission to reconsider the requirement for single-family homes to be 750 square feet.  

“I’m the only one that’s building these homes,” Griffin told the commission. “I’m trying to do that for people who have land and they don’t want to pay $250,000 for a house. I’m supplying a shell which they can finish off and probably get done in about 50 grand… I think this something that can help out people.” 

Griffin asked for a compromise, to move the number down to 500 square feet so he could still fit the building on a trailer to deliver it. 

Instead, the commission agreed unanimously to remove the minimum square footage for single-family dwellings from the ordinance and also removed the table listing minimum acreage for animals. 

Commissioners said property owners have the right to do what they wish with their land, as long as it is legal. 

“All five of us sit up here, we were elected as Republicans,” Commissioner John Meeks said. “We’re supposed to believe in individual freedoms and, to a certain degree, less government… There is a time for government intervention, then there’s a time for us to leave people alone.” 

Meeks also said the county needs to bring back the ag deputy position to work on agriculture-related criminal cases and make ordinances more enforceable. 

Staff also presented a list of Uses that need further examination, which were left out of this round of edits, making them prohibited in unincorporated Levy County for new use. Those who have already approved their land under the now-prohibited uses are considered non-compliant but legal. These uses include: 

  • Kennels, rescues and sanctuaries 
  • Asphalt or cement plants 
  • Farm worker housing 
  • Outdoor commercial/passive recreation 
  • Meat processing with live animals 

Hunting and fishing camps and agritourism designations need further evaluation, but are not prohibited. 

Many sections of the Levy County code had not been updated in over 20 years, according to staff. The planning and zoning and legal staff began meeting to clarify and organize contradictory and confusing parts of the Uses Ordinances since the summer of 2022.  

Among other things, the amendments formally require commercial uses to present a site plan and go through a development review process, remove multifamily as a county use, declares null and void special exceptions not acted upon for 10 years, and generally created a more “user friendly” document. 

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