Friday, May 24, 2013
By Paul Koenig
GARDINER -- Members of a review committee on Monday began hashing out a proposed ordinance allowing people in residential zones to raise small livestock.
Marciana Johnson is raising goats with her family in the backyard of their Gardiner home. Johnson's request for an ordinance review to allow small livestock to be kept intown is being considered by the city's Ordinance Review Committee.
Staff file photo by Andy Molloy
Ordinance Review Committee Chairwoman Deborah Willis said her panel needs to appreciate and respect the people who want to raise their own food while balancing those needs with being a good neighbor.
Some neighbors complained after Chandler and Marcina Johnson of Plaisted Street got two pygmy goats in June, using the goats for milk. Livestock is not allowed in high density residential zones such as where the Johnsons live, meaning they're violating city rules right now.
City Manager Scott Morelli has said the city won't enforce the existing ordinance banning the Johnsons' goats until the City Council can review the issue.
Hilda Whitmore, 78, who lives diagonally across from the Johnson's backyard on Clinton Street, was vocal with her displeasure at the last public meeting and attended Monday's meeting as well. She has repeatedly said she doesn't want the goats next door, citing the smell and appearance of the property. She said she's not opposed to people raising animals, just not in the residential areas.
"The city is not going to be a city, it's going to be a farm" if the new rules are passed, she said.
The committee held two previous public comment meetings on the issue, but Monday's gathering was the first time committee members began discussing specifics of the proposed ordinance. Willis said there would likely be at least two or three more meetings before the committee has an ordinance to pass on to the Planning Board, which would then recommend any changes to the City Council for final adoption.
Willis said the committee is working with the Maine Farmland Trust to provide guidelines for what the ordinance should cover, including defining allowed animals, fencing and screening, number of animals per size of lot, waste management, odor and smell and enforcement.
Committee members say there do not appear to be any Maine municipalities allowing small livestock in high-density residential zones such as what's proposed in Gardiner, and most Maine communities where livestock can be raised require landowners to have at least two acres.
Some communities elsewhere in the country, such as Seattle, Wash., do have such ordinances, according to the committee.
Most committee members agreed the ordinance should include a 30-foot buffer from the livestock's area to any property lines and a 50-foot buffer to any neighboring houses, although a couple committee members wanted smaller minimum distances.
The committee also agreed that goats, sheep and rabbits should be the only livestock allowed in residential areas, and they have suggested a 100-pound limit per animal. Setting a minimum area per animal still needs to be discussed at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 26.
All committee members agreed that any ordinance shouldn't cause an undue burden for city officials enforcing the rules.
Chandler and Marcina Johnson both say they that most neighbors have been supportive of the goats.
Marcina Johnson said it would possible to still raise the goats with the setbacks from property lines the committee discussed, although it would be less than ideal.
"But it is a brand new concept, so we knew there would be compromises all around," she said.
Paul Koenig -- 621-5663