Local News

Pot-bellied pigs OK

— A pot-bellied pig’s place is in the home, the Planning & Zoning Commission will recommend to the county commission next month, and maybe it should be okay to raise as many as nine sheep, pigs and goats on an acreage.

At their Tuesday meeting, the planning commission discussed an amendment to the land development regulations “providing for allowing pot-bellied pigs in residential zoning districts.”

“Up to 80 pounds. That should make everybody happy,” said P&Z commissioner Dave Travers.

P&Z also recommended a separate ordinance that currently allows three sheep, goat or hogs on at least one acre. Both were recommended to the Highlands County commissioners. That ordinance has been in place since Highlands County first adopted zoning regulations in the 1970s, County Attorney Ross Macbeth said.

If the county commissioners take P&Z’s recommendation, the new ordinance will allow for a maximum of three pigs but up to nine sheep and goats in any combination, said Macbeth.

“That does not include babies that not have been weaned,” Macbeth said.

Why allow any number of horses and cattle, but limit the number of pigs, goats and sheep?

Horses and cows graze for food; commercially raised swine are fed.

“It’s a numbers game,” Macbeth said. “They are typically concentrated in a penned location.”

If the county had no ordinance, a drove of pigs could cause a big stink and reduce property values, Macbeth said.

As for the capra and the aries, “We have very little experience with goats and sheep,” Macbeth said, “but they don’t seem to be raised like cattle.”

On a small parcel, goats and sheep eat all the grass, the attorney said. “There’s nothing left but dirt and mud.”

“They can devastate the land,” Travers said.

Hogwash, says Rick Haberman, owner of the 10-acre ChinaDoll Farm east of Avon Park, which raises football-sized potbellied pigs, goats, horses and Zebu cows. “Everything is miniature.”

Haberman also runs a petting zoo. If a farm is properly prepared and maintained, he said Thursday, “you can’t smell the farm from the next house.”

Two years ago, a neighbor complained about ChinaDoll, but moved before the county zoning department could enforce the law. Neighbors should move to next to an airport and complain about the noise, and they shouldn’t relocate next to a farm and complain about the animals, Haberman pointed out.

“It’s a stupid ordinance,” Haberman said. “I can have 150 cows, but I can’t have three goats, sheep or pigs.”

In another recommended change, if an acreage owner like Haberman wants more swine, sheep or goats, the board of adjustments will hear individual appeals, Macbeth said. “I think they recommended that no fee be charged for special exceptions.”

The pot-bellied pig ordinance is already prepared, Macbeth said. If the sheep, goats and swine ordinance is ready, both could be heard at the county commission’s Aug. 5 meeting.