New ag zoning ordinance on the way

Mary Atkinson · Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The city council had a third and final reading of the proposed changes to the city's agricultural ordinance at a regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 3.

A need to examine the current ordinance came to light when WL resident Clare Palmer asked the council if she was permitted to house horses on her property.

She is located on Walnut Street behind the fairgrounds, but within the city's limits.

While researching an answer, the council realized that there are two conflicting codes on the books. A zoning ordinance claims she can have horses, while an old police ordinance claims she cannot within city limits.

City Clerk Missy Carter said the city had to decide which ordinance needed to be amended.

"There were two conflicting codes," she said. "This city's zoning code said that you could have livestock (within city limits) and then there is a police code which is in the same code of ordinances that says that you cannot have any livestock within city limits."

"They decided to change the zoning and not allow the animals within city limits," she added. "We [city] define agricultural as just crop farming and horticulture'"

After discussing the issue during a regular meeting and a work session in late August, Mayor Thomas asked members of the council if they wanted farm animals in town.

"I don't think we should be encouraging new agricultural uses in our city limits," he said.

However, Thomas said that some property owners within city limits who have livestock fall under the 'grandfather' clause. However, if they stop using the land for livestock then they would not be able to go back to raising livestock later under the new ordinance.

If the ordinance passes its final reading Dec. 3, it would take effect immediately. Those properties already 'grandfathered' in would still be permitted to have livestock.

Specifically, the new ordinance will state land usage in city limits can only be used for crop farming and horticulture purposes.

Carter said that is what should be emphasized to residents. "I think if they understand that agricultural farming (livestock) is no longer allowed... that is the main thing," she said.

Penalties for violating the new ordinance, considered municipal infractions, would not exceed $500 for the first offense. Reoccurring offenses would not exceed $750.
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