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Thornville to put ‘teeth’ in livestock ordinance

THORNVILLE – Now that it’s been determined that most Thornville residents do not approve of allowing livestock within the village, per a village survey, members of the Thornville Planning and Zoning Commission met Monday night to discuss what to do with the village’s existing livestock ordinance.

“Many people may have felt like it was a waste of time to do (the survey), but I thought it was important to get people’s opinions,” said commission chair Susan Hibbler.

The village received 106 survey responses out of approximately 450 Thornville households. Sixty-nine responses were generally not in favor of livestock, 36 responses were generally favorable, and one response was undecided.

“I don’t want to be making decisions without asking people how they feel,” Hibbler said. “It’s clear that they don’t want the rules to change.”

She recommended that the zoning inspector inform residents of violations, not the mayor, as is existing policy. The village administrator should be a back up if the zoning inspector is unavailable. Hibbler said Thornville did not have a zoning inspector when the existing livestock ordinance was penned.

“It definitely needs to be out of the mayor’s hands,” said commission member Jennifer Rickey.

“Right now, it’s not a misdemeanor at all,” said Mayor Gavin Renner. He said there’s no court appearance for a violation, just a letter stating the violator needs to pay a fine. “It’s not clear to me what the due process is, which is what we ran into,” Renner said. Previously, he and his wife, Thornville Village Council member Mary Renner were sent a warning letter from the village stating its position that the Renners could not keep domesticated chickens on their property as pets. There was a $25 fine and the chickens have since been relocated.

Mayor Renner said people are entitled to a due process of law. “This doesn’t do that,” he said. “It just says the mayor is going to send you a fine and then what? Where are the teeth in it?” Renner said people are asking him what would happen if they simply don’t pay the fine. “Are they going to mayor’s court? I don’t know,” he said. “This was written 50 years ago. It doesn’t even follow anything on Ohio basic code. Basic code says it’s clearly a misdemeanor with a fine.”

“I would like to clean this up,” Hibbler said. “I think there are parts of it that could be improved. That’s our responsibility to take care of.”

Renner said it should be clear there’s a ban on all farm animals.

Administrator Beth Patrick said commission members should be careful the list of banned animals isn’t too specific. “(The Village of) Baltimore is going through the same thing,” she said.

“It doesn’t even talk about pigs,” Renner said.

Patrick asked if potbelly pigs are considered pets.

“There are no definitions at all,” Renner said. Clarity is needed.

“It’s pretty clear to me that people didn’t want any livestock, period,” Hibbler said.

Renner was concerned about the livestock ordinance addressing small 4-H animals. “It’s dumb to tell children they can’t have these 4-H animals,” he said. “Do we ban them as well?”

Hibbler said she believes a provision in the existing ordinance stating council members may give permission for some livestock was aimed at 4-H animals.

“It was,” Rickey said, adding the zoning inspector said so.

“If that’s what it means, that’s what it should say,” Hibbler said.

Rickey asked if the zoning inspector should give permission for 4-H animals.

Renner said the inspector would have to have a broad power of interpretation. “It makes it seem arbitrary unless it specifically states 4-H,” he said.

Commission members discussed placing time limits on any permission given to ensure any livestock permitted is 4-H.

“It would protect the village as well,” Renner said, because the language would be less arbitrary. People would still have the right to complain about odors or noise.

Patrick said she would take the commission’s discussion into account, begin modifying the existing ordinance’s language, and present her version to the commission during its Nov. 7 meeting.

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