Animal ordinance rewrite could limit hens, ban horses

An initial draft of an animal ordinance rewrite in Monticello shows a document that would be more in step with state law, give the city recourse if people don’t clean up after their dogs, outlaws horses within the city limits and limits the amount of chickens to four per household.

The city council discussed the document at a work session Monday (Nov. 5), but will likely obtain public input on the proposal before taking a vote, possibly in December.

Attorney Dan Bolin, who drafted the rewrite, said Monticello is not the only town looking at the issue, especially in regards to chickens.

“It’s increasingly popular for people to have hens in town,” said Bolin. “The state has not really addressed it, so municipalities are jumping in.” He suggested a limit of four hens per property, saying it was “right in the middle” of what other towns were allowing.

He added four hens would produce about 20 eggs per week, according to estimates from the American Egg Board. If approved, the ordinance would not allow roosters in town.

The proposal would also double the setback when keeping chickens to 150 feet from any occupied residence.

Added to the list of outlawed animals would be horses, which concerned Cody Sanantonio, principal of the Metamorphosis Montessori school in Monticello. After getting rid of a pair of sheep at the school two months ago because they violated city code, she purchased a miniature horse, which could now also become illegal.

Sanantonio said she needed to know soon if she would be allowed to keep her horse in order to winterize the structure that houses the animal.

“We’ve already paid a carpenter hundreds of dollars to do roofing and it will probably be another thousand to keep her warm for winter, so we would just ask that you act quickly on deciding if you’re going to give exemptions or if you’re going to grandfather it in, because we’ve been asking about this since June,” said Sanantonio, who also houses chickens at the school.

The city discussed the animal issue throughout the summer, but decided in September to keep the ban on livestock within the city. At the same time, aldermen felt the current animal ordinance needed clarification, which led to the rewrite.

Mayor Chris Corrie felt the idea of allowing people who meet current city code to keep their animals under a new ordinance was worthy of discussion. The amended ordinance would require all banned animals to be removed by Jan. 1 of 2014 unless they are grandfathered in.

The mayor also suggested time be allotted for public input on the new ordinance before aldermen take a vote.

“I suggest we allow the public to weigh in with a certain timeframe after they’ve seen and heard this. I think it’s worthy for the public to have input, and for it to be in a timely fashion,” said Corrie.

If approved as is, there are no exemptions allowed for livestock, roosters, or horses within city limits. Corrie said the city should also consider whether any exemptions should be allowed for educational institutions.

Audience member Steve Shreffler suggested the city post the ordinance proposal online in order for citizens to be informed before they comment. Corrie agreed that would be a good idea.

The ordinance would also align the city with state statutes that have changed throughout the years, including language on dangerous and vicious dogs. In addition, those who have dogs on public property must “have a means for the removal of excrement” in order to clean up after their pets.

Cats are generally ignored in the ordinance. Bolin said state law does not allow cities to regulate cats to the same degree as dogs and other animals. However, he did say the city could include cats in the ban on ‘running at large’ if they desire. That would allow ordinance violations to be written to owners who allow their cats to roam off of their own property.

The mayor suggested the city take input and wrap up discussion of the issue at its Nov. 26 meeting with an eye toward a Dec. 10 vote on the ordinance.

Electric rates

Discussion continued about the city possibly negotiating for lower electric rates for its citizens. Superintendent of City Services Floyd Allsop said citizens can already shop around for electric carriers, which with current rates would save them about $13 on a $200 bill. If the city negotiates for local residents, the savings would be around $18 on the same bill.

Allsop was directed to find out if there was more than one company that could provide not only electricity, but walk the city through the process – technically called municipal electric aggregation. The issue would need voter approval; if the city wants it on the April ballot a decision would need to be made in January.

Council members also discussed the annual tax levy, which needs to be approved in December. Allsop said estimates from the county are that land values will drop about one percent this year, which would meen less revenue if the city keeps the current tax rate. Discussion will continue to at next Tuesday’s (Nov. 13) regular council meeting.

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