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Perry officials to revisit livestock ban

SALEM — Perry Township officials plan to revisit the rule prohibiting farm animals on less than 5 acres and possibly increase all zoning fees to update them to today’s standards.

Zoning/nuisance Officer Jeff Christopher highlighted both ideas during a Perry Township Zoning Board meeting Monday night, noting that in the month he’s been working his new post, about 75 percent of the nuisance complaints have dealt with animals, chickens in particular.

While driving to investigate three chicken complaints, he saw chickens at other properties, too, and questioned if there was a better way to handle the situation. According to Christopher, there’s a bill pending at the state level regarding allowing livestock animals in cities and it might be something to look at in the township.

He sent board members ordinances from both Cleveland and Columbus to see how they handle chickens and other farm animals. The township currently doesn’t allow farm animals on properties less than 5 acres.

“There’s some areas that shouldn’t have animals,” Christopher agreed.

But using his own property as an example, he owns 3 acres and has nothing around him but farm land and no nearby neighbors. A property like that could support animals. He recently had to tell a new property owner that they could not have a goat, even though the property has a small barn, because it’s under 5 acres. He asked if it’s time for a change and suggested maybe an expansion of the rules surrounding animals on smaller properties to regulate them.

Board member Doug Sampson said he’s for negotiating and adjusting, but the law on the books now should be enforced. He talked about his own neighborhood on West State Street and how one property has chickens, a goat and a rooster that crows at 4:30 a.m. He talked about the fact that he had to get a permit and variance for mounds and a fence on his property. Why couldn’t they do the same for animals on a case-by-case basis?

The zoning rule pertaining to farm animals was approved by township trustees in October 2017, stating that land less than 5 acres in a residential, business or industrial zoning district cannot have animal husbandry (cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, llamas, cows, poultry) and shall not include the feeding and sheltering of such animals. Apparently, properties that already had such animals were grandfathered, meaning the law didn’t apply to them.

Trustee Chair Steve Bailey said it might be more beneficial to have some regulations in place whether a property had animals before or not, looking at a registration process, keeping the animals confined so they can’t wander onto a neighboring property and other rules.

Zoning board member Joe Farago agreed they should go forward for the betterment of the township. Sampson asked if they could eliminate the grandfather clause, which Christopher said they can do so everyone falls under the same rules.

He said he’ll work on a first draft to send to board members for their review and they can meet again. He’s going to do the same with the zoning fee schedule, with board members talking about doubling some of the fees which date back to 1997. Some of the fees are based on a minimum, with so many cents charged per additional square foot.

Christopher suggested adjusting the fees for a size range to standardize them. Farago said that would make it simpler.

As an example based on a yearly 3 percent inflation rate, Bailey figured a fee of $25 from 1997 should be more like $50 today.

Christopher said he’ll prepare a draft for a new fee schedule and present it to the board members for their feedback.

Any changes would have to be approved by the zoning board and by the trustees, giving residents an opportunity to weigh in during the future discussions on both issues.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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