Animal ordinance discussion continues

The details on what animals – and how many – will be allowed in residential areas are finally being hammered out.

The Monticello City Council made some small changes to the proposed draft of a new animal ordinance and agreed to discuss the language of those changes at its Nov. 26 meeting. The board is aiming for a Dec. 10 vote on the ordinance to give residents about a year to comply before any new requirements would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

The board agreed to a change in the draft to increase the number of hens from four to six allowed on a property, but kept the required 150-foot distance between the pen or coup from a neighboring occupied dwelling.

“Look around Monticello; who’s got a lot they can put anything on?” Alderman Lyle Murdock asked.

Alderman Vince Kuetemeyer said there are only about a dozen properties in Monticello that he knows of that could handle the 150-foot setback.

“If you leave the chickens in the ordinance and you put the 150 feet restriction, that would just about ban any chickens, with rare exception,” Alderman Bill Mitze said.

One of the properties affected by such a restriction is the Metamorphosis Montessori school in Monticello. Principal Cody Sanantonio and the school has been involved in the ordinance discussion ever since neighbors complained about the smell from a pair of sheep on the school’s lot last May. The sheep have since been removed and replaced with a miniature horse, which would also violate the proposed ordinance rewrite after the council added horses to the list of banned animals at a meeting Nov. 5.

“I am concerned about the people who already have chickens here in Monticello,” Sanantonio told the board. “What you have done with the 150-foot setback is eliminate chickens for anybody. I would ask you to consider a more reasonable setback.”

Sanatonio said she wasn’t speaking for just her school, but for others in the community who felt the limitations were too strong. She added she would like to see a setback of 50 to 75 feet.

“150 feet just isn’t fair,” she said.

Chickens weren’t the only issue in the proposed animal ordinance up for discussion. The board passed a motion to add a required permit to house approved animals on a property that would allow city staff to inspect the dwelling once a year. Council members agreed not to add a fee to obtain the permit.

The issue of grandfathering in properties that already had animals came up as well.

“It’s not only the chickens, but it’s a change to the status quo,” Alderman Kevin Hiller said. “It comes down to: are we going to grandfather them in, and how is that done?”

“It seems to me that we’re making this very complicated because we’re trying to please every single individual in town. We can’t do that,” Alderman Michael Brown said. “We have to do what is best for the City of Monticello.”

Kuetemeyer wants the board to take its focus off of individual situations and look at the bigger picture.

“I don’t think it’s smart to connect one entity to the entire idea of grandfathering,” he said. “We don’t know what’s available in this town, and we’re not trying to do things individually. We’re trying to think for the entire community.”

Hiller said in a perfect world both sides would be able to come to a compromise.

“Maybe it can’t be done,” he said. “I guess I live in an idealistic world where everyone can get together and figure out some common ground.”

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