Court could be next stop for animal ordinance

If Monticello City Council approves a new animal ordinance next Monday, it may not end the issue; it may just move it into the court system.

“I am determined to keep my (miniature) horse, chickens and our rooster,” said Cody Sanantonio, the owner of the Metamorphosis Montessori school in Monticello. All of those animals are currently allowed, but would be banned at the school under the current rewrite under consideration.

At a work session Dec. 3, aldermen discussed the latest version of the amended animal ordinance , which would allow up to six hens (no roosters) if there is at least 150 feet between the chicken enclosure and neighbors homes.

Council members seemed willing to include a clause that allows current chicken owners to keep hens with the current 75-foot setback. Sanantonio said the school meets that provision, but not a new one that requires the enclosure to also be at least 20 feet from nearby lot lines.

Superintendent of City Services Floyd Allsop said the 75-foot setback would come in the form of a non-conforming animal certificate that would need to be applied for.

“The certificate basically says you can keep hens, ducks, geese, and other domestic fowl within 75 feet versus 150 feet, but the certificate only covers those animals. It doesn't include other farm animals,” said Allsop.

A non-conforming animal certificate would not be able to be transferred, and would expire in 2024.

Roger Simpson, an attorney from Monticello, told the council he felt the law would not pass muster if it was taken to court. He said calling the animals nuisances “is a really strong term,” and also felt it was illegal to set an expiration date for non-conforming uses.

“You really have to talk to your lawyer about the grandfathering,” said Simpson. “If this is truly a non-conforming use, then there really is no year; there is no time limit until that person abandons that use or it is destroyed, or it is altered so that it is not the same as it was.”

He also felt the council should delay a scheduled Dec. 10 vote on the animal ordinance.

“I know that my comments are somewhat late in the ballgame, but maybe we need to go into extra innings to make sure that everything is done correctly,” he said.

Simpson said he was at the meeting as “a concerned citizen,” but Santantonio confirmed after the session that he was representing her on the animal ordinance issue.

Discussion on the ordinance has been ongoing since May, when Santantonio was found to be in violation for keeping a pair of sheep at the school. Throughout the process she has asked for an educational exemption in order to keep animals at the school, which she said is part of the curriculum for her students.

Electric rates
Council members were told they would need to make a decision on the possibility of municipal aggregation of electric rates at its Jan. 14 meeting in order for the issue to get on the April 9 ballot. If approved, the city would be able to use an outside firm to negotiate for better rates for its citizens.

There are two routes the city could take: A supplier could be used to walk them through the process and purchase electricity for the town; or a consultant could be used to bid the process out.

The latter method was used by Good Energy to pool together 250,000 residents in 55 communities in November, 50 of which approved the ballot question.

The council hopes to have a representative from Good Energy give a presentation to the council at one of its next two meetings.

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