NEW HAVEN — Farm animals or no farm animals in town?
The controversy is causing quite a stink in New Haven. But if town council members were hoping public input at a meeting Tuesday night would help them make a decision, then they surely went home disappointed.
With over 100 in attendance and over two dozen expressing their opinions, those opinions did not provide the council with overwhelming numbers one way or another. In fact, it was nearly even in those who spoke “for” or “against.”
The town has had an ordinance on the books for many years that prohibits farm animals in municipal limits. About nine households have the animals, however, and were recently told by council to rehome them outside of the town or be subject to fine.
The council members were ready to increase the fines for those who failed to comply during a recent regular meeting. But at the very meeting they were to determine the amounts of the higher fines, a delegation attended asking the council to put a “stay” on the present animals in town, and consider amending the ordinance or abolishing it altogether. The council then agreed to Tuesday’s public meeting in order to receive more input.
Those in favor of having animals cited reasons such as knowing where their food comes from with no preservatives, allowing their children to raise an animal project for 4-H, and the relaxing effect animals have on people. On the opposing side, those against having animals feared the smell, noise, and possible declining property values.
Karen Hindel, a former council member, said she grew up on a dairy farm. She said the animals stink, and the reason they are called “farm animals” is because they belong on a farm. Hindel said the ordinance has been on the books for many years, but was revised in 2010 to force several residents to get rid of their animals in town.
Clyde Weaver, who was on the town zoning board at that time, said board members spent long hours on the ordinance revision. It was approved by the town’s attorney, as well as the council.
Dale and Carol Smith have lived on a two-and-a-half acre “farm” in the middle of town that dates back to the days of George Washington. Carol was raised on the property, and she and her husband have had a farm there for the past 40 years. The property sits along Rt. 62 and has two barns, but has no close neighbors.
“My place has always been a farm,” said Dale Smith, who noted in the past he has had horses, cattle, pigs and sheep. “We have no close neighbors. We have had no complaints.”
But yet, he said he can see the other side, as well.
“You have to use common sense if you live next to someone,” Smith said.
That point is one many alluded to. Peggy Huff said she thought the issue was a simple one for council.
“It’s an ordinance,” she said. “Most of the lots in New Haven are 90 by 100 (feet). We could have a barn next door. It’s already established. Don’t open the door.”
Former Mayor Ron Zerkle agreed.
“You took an oath to uphold the laws of this town…,” Zerkle said. “This has been an ordinance for about 40 years.”
Annette Hill said she has neighbors who have animals in their yards, and says there is odor when the wind blows and she can hear the goats from inside her house. She added changing the ordinance would basically allow all residents to have a small farm on their property.
“We have homes that are being neglected now,” Hill said. “This opens the opportunity from nine families in town having animals to possibly 290 families in the next year.”
At least three people noted some of the animals they harbor are only for short periods, and are for their children’s 4-H projects. Although Terry and Trish Gilkey have a duck and six chickens, they said the two pigs they raise on Haven Heights are only from April until fair time in August. Sarah Lightfoot noted the goat raised by her children was a fair project, and Phil Serevicz added the lamb his son raised was also temporary for 4-H.
Health issues were also cited on both sides of the issue. Jackie Blain told of the benefits of goat’s milk for her daughter, who is allergic to cow’s milk. Debra Russell touted the preservative-free duck eggs that help with her allergies. But Sandra Grimm told of the negative effects the animal smells have on her COPD, asthma and emphysema.
While council members listened intently for an hour and a half, no decision was made during the meeting nor was any time frame given. The next regular meeting will be held July 24, 6 p.m., at the town hall.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.