Draft ‘hooved animal’ ordinance gets hearing Wednesday
Big animals like horses — or goats, cattle, mules, bison, camels — can be awkward neighbors in small-lot suburban neighborhoods. Another attempt at a “horse ordinance” to better regulate the problems of keeping “hooved animals” comes up for public comment next week.
The Board of Selectmen scheduled a public hearing next Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 in town hall on a redraft of a proposed “horse ordinance” that that was hooted down at public hearing last spring.
“We can continue to debate this, I’m not going to say ‘until the cows come home,’” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said, introducing the latest draft from a committee of both horse owners and neighbors of horses.
The ordinance to “regulate the keeping of livestock on small lots in high-density residential areas” governs many aspects of keeping horses and other livestock — fencing, manure storage, sanitation, run-in sheds — and is proposed to apply in areas with lots of 7,500 square feet, 10,000 square feet and 20,000 square feet.
It defines “livestock” to include “any hooved animal such as cattle, bison, swine, goats, sheep, llamas, camels, horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and other hooved animals.”
It specifies that “it shall be unlawful for any person to keep livestock on a residential lot which is less than half of an acre in size.”
An additional provision makes it illegal “to keep any additional hooved animal” unless “the lot consists of an additional half-acre in size over the first half-acre, for each additional hooved animal.”
Another restriction says “structures for manure storage” for animals “shall not be located any closer than 25 feet to any property line on the residential lot.”
The ordinance requires that “all stables, pens, yards, or other buildings or enclosures” for the livestock “shall be maintained in a sanitary condition and subject to inspection by the Director of Health,” who will have the power to order “closed or removed if not maintained in a sanitary condition.”
The director of health would issue violators a warning and then a written order to comply, under the ordinance. A landowner who didn’t comply within 30 days would face “a civil penalty of not less than $100 or more than $250 per day for each day the violation persists.”
Landowners “aggrieved” by an order from the town health director would have the right to appeal it to the state commissioner of public health.
The ordinance also contains an exemption for established horse owners from some — but not all — aspects of the regulation.
Property owners who have “successfully maintained hooved animals for five or more years” would be exempt from the lot size restrictions of “no more than one hooved animal per half-acre of usable land” and also from rules concerning run-in sheds and fencing.
The exemptions do not apply to the “sanitation of enclosures” aspect of the ordinance, which specifies “manure shall be collected frequently from all areas and regularly removed from the property to maintain a sanitary condition and minimize odor, dust-producing substances and waste so as to prevent any health hazard, pollutants, disturbance or nuisance.”
Olivia Goodnow, a horse owner from West Lane who’d attended previous meetings on the issue, was at the Oct. 25 selectmen’s meeting where the new ordinance was presented.
“I think this is a huge improvement,” she said.
But Jeffrey Hubsher, a veterinarian with a farm in town, questioned the attempt to regulate all “hooved animals” together.
“How can you compare a big bull that’s almost a ton with a little pot-bellied pig that’s almost like a dog?” he asked.
Marconi said criticism should be saved for the public hearing.
“We air this all out with the public,” he said. “If we’re OK, we establish a town meeting date.”
If not, the ordinance could be tweaked by the selectmen, or go back for more work by the committee.