Lark Rippy wrote an email to District 5 Longboat Key Town Commissioner Maureen Merrigan.
Lark Rippy wanted something to remind her of home.
The 11-year-old Longboat Key resident remembered what it was like growing up with chickens in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“We had eight chickens, and I don’t remember a lot because I was really young, but I always remember like getting the cute little baby chicks,” Rippy said.
Rippy said the chickens made for great pets, and the fresh eggs they laid helped improve with the family’s cooking.
“I found our old chicken care book, and I started to look throughout it and I was like, ‘Oh man, I really want to keep doing this,’” Rippy said. “I started researching and I found out that you actually can’t on Longboat Key, and I just decided that, that is something that I wanted to change.”
Rippy wrote to District 5 Longboat Key Town Commissioner Maureen Merrigan to ask about the process of changing the town’s ordinance about animals within the town limits.
In Rippy’s email, she even referenced Ordinance 91.012, which states:
No livestock, fowl or domestic animals, other than household pets (dogs, cats, birds, fish or other pets generally accepted as household pets capable of and customarily sharing a dwelling with humans), shall be kept or maintained within the town.
“She didn’t even have me look at the email before she sent it, and then she wrote it and sent it from my email [address],” Rippy’s mother Heather said.
In January, the Rippy family opened the Driftwood Beach Home and Garden at 6838 Gulf of Mexico Drive. They moved to Longboat Key when Heather’s husband, Dr. Steven Todd Rippy, found work in Bradenton as a pediatrician.
Merrigan is a customer of the family’s store.
“She had done her research, which I thought was wonderful for an 11-year-old but also for any adult on the Key,” Merrigan said. “It’s wonderful to have somebody who has looked into the ordinance and looked into the issue before they’ve reached out to a commissioner.”
Heather Rippy admitted her daughter’s letter to Merrigan was “probably” better than she could have done.
“I was very impressed that she knew how to find the ordinance,” Heather Rippy said.
Lark Rippy and her mom have started the process of asking their Longbeach Village neighbors about what they think about the possibility of raising a small flock of hens in their backyard. Together, they’ve put together an informal poll to get neighbors’ input. They eventually plan to present their findings to the town, perhaps later this fall.
The Longbeach Village neighborhood has a history with animals. In previous years, Village residents have argued about the merits and drawbacks of peacocks in the neighborhood.
However, the Rippys say their plan is part of a bigger vision for Lark Rippy to pursue her interest in animals.
“I want to live on a farm when I grow up and do traditional farming,” Lark Rippy said. “And have like alpacas and goats and sheep and like everything.
“Also, that was kind of part of the reason [I wrote in] because I wanted to start doing that again.”
Lark Rippy has also started walking neighbors’ dogs in the Village neighborhood and some residents who live near Whitney Plaza. She has her own pet section in the shop to sell things like leashes, collars, toys and small dog poop holders.
“She’s an impressive young girl, and she’s someone that’s going to be an impressive citizen and adult,” Merrigan said. “I was impressed with her intelligence, and I was impressed with her thoughtfulness and her initiative.”
Heather Rippy insists Lark’s 9-year-old sister Bliss is her own kid and won’t live in her older sister’s shadow.
“She does have a lot to live up to, but she’s the social butterfly,” Heather Rippy said of her younger daughter. “It’s funny because people have called both of my kids the future mayor of Longboat Key.”