NEW HAVEN — It was an emotional plea by some New Haven residents Monday evening that led town council members to forego increasing fines for those harboring farm animals within the municipality, and instead agreeing to hold a public meeting that might change the ordinance altogether.
The council recently instructed Police Chief Dave Hardwick to deliver letters to seven residents who were known to have farm animals, which is against a town ordinance.
At the June 26 meeting, it was announced the council would be considering increasing fines for those who failed to comply with the ordinance. But residents passionate about urban agriculture not only convinced the council members to halt the increase, but also to consider allowing the animals in the corporation with certain regulations.
Eric and Jackie Blain live in town and have chickens, ducks, and goats, all behind a privacy fence. Jackie said she petitioned the previous administration, requesting urban agriculture be allowed in town.
She said at that time, she was told in the open meeting by a council member that “miniature” animals were considered pets and not livestock. She described her goats as being so small that her six-year-old must bend over to pet them. She also said she has spent approximately $4,000 on the animals and necessary equipment and fencing to keep them from smelling or creating a nuisance.
Jackie Blain further stated she uses the animals to provide goat milk and eggs for her family as healthy alternatives to store-bought food. She also offered to hold classes to educate people on urban agriculture.
Eric Blain told the council while there is a municipal ordinance against the animals, West Virginia Code 8-11-2 allows town officials to use discretion on any ordinance. He asked why many town ordinances are being violated, but only the one is being enforced.
He proposed the town set up a committee to see what the people want, and possibly allow residents to have the animals with a fee and regular inspections of the property. He asked the council to put a “stay” on the animals in town at the present time and look into a new ordinance.
“Just because something is against an ordinance doesn’t mean it’s a nuisance,” Eric Blain said.
Tatum Roush said she, too, has chickens for healthy reasons. She said her family benefits from the eggs and that the birds have turned into pets for her children. Also attending to support the animals were Terry and Trish Gilkey.
But on the opposing side, Sandra Grimm said she has health problems and does smell the animals on the Blain property. She added she and her husband have been residents of New Haven for 40 years, and even if they wanted to sell their property, no one would want it with farm animals nearby.
Mayor Jerry Spradling suggested the town could reach a “happy medium,” allowing animals with certain regulations.
Councilman Matt Shell said he felt 97 percent of the town’s residents did not care if their neighbors had animals, and only three percent do care about what everyone else is doing. It was Shell at the end of the discussion who made a motion to table action on those having the animals and hold an open meeting to form an ordinance that would satisfy the majority of the people. The remaining council members agreed.
The meeting will be held July 17, 7:30 p.m., at the New Haven Community Center. The next regular council meeting will be July 24 at 6 p.m.