Village Solicitor Julie Spain informed the Richwood Council about potential ways to regulate livestock in the village during its meeting on Monday.
The council and residents have expressed concern about large livestock within the village.
Spain initially contacted the Union County Health Department to ask how and why the department would intervene in circumstances related to livestock inside village limits.
“Most of the time, the health department are just not going to be the first people who are going to show up in that case,” she explained.
Spain has referenced other municipalities’ ordinances and is waiting on a follow-up call from the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.
She added that there are different ways to regulate an animal – safety of the animal, safety of other humans and zoning regulations.
“Does the animal have proper shelter? If that animal doesn’t have proper shelter, if it’s not being cared for, we have options regardless of what the ordinance says,” Spain said.
She said there are criminal provisions for animal abuse.
The health department may get involved if the livestock in the village poses a threat to human safety. Or, the owner could receive a nuisance violation for odor and unsanitary conditions.
“At that point, even if it’s permitted by zoning, we could step in and say, ‘This isn’t safe,’” Spain said.
As for zoning regulations, properties that are ag exempt are permitted to have livestock. For properties that are not ag exempt, the homeowners would need a permit for accessory buildings that house animals. Although the animals may still be allowed, Spain said the village council can make sure accessory buildings follow the setback requirements and size limitations.
“If it’s not an ag district, you can put in a resolution that prohibits livestock and prohibits ag uses,” Spain said.
However, livestock animals, like pigs, may be considered pets.
“We’re not going to catch every single animal, at least right now,” Spain said.
She said she hopes the Farm Service Agency can confirm whether animals like cows can be permitted as pets if they are not used for any agricultural purposes.
Spain clarified that property owners could obtain an ag exemption based on acreage or agricultural revenue.
“You can have a small amount of acres, but if you’re making money from ag activities, you can still be ag exempt,” she said.
Spain added that there is a threshold for ag sales to be ag exempt.
Another form of zoning regulation is land use for commercial and ag purposes.
“There’s the question of can the cows exist there. There’s the question of can the structures housing the cows exist there. And then, third off of all of those things, there’s the question of at what point will the way that you’re using those cows in the property either give you an ag exemption because you’re breeding and making money,” Spain said. “If it’s an ag use, are ag uses permitted where that house is?”
Right now, the village council is reviewing case by case but the goal is to amend the ordinance for long-term regulation of livestock within the village limits.
Spain is also investigating whether properties that may be grandfathered in because they have larger livestock before the ordinance is amended can replace or add more livestock in the future.
She added that livestock will be clearly defined in the ordinance.
The council will work with Spain to adopt language to the ordinance “protecting the rights the property owners have and also protecting the right the community has to make sure that we’ve got safe conditions for everybody here,” she said.
In other news:
-Village Administrator Monte Asher said the bulk water system installation is complete. Residents can sign up at the municipal building, 153 N. Franklin St., with Clerk Sarah Sellers Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
-The council agreed to another one-year contract to the North Union Board of Softball for Girls to allow use of the softball fields.
-The council established a streets and vacant properties committee, including Zoning Inspector Marion Bump and Council members Pat Morse and Donnie Ridgeway.
-A well pump at the village water plant needs to be replaced. The estimate from Moody’s of Dayton, Inc. is $9,060.
-The next village council meeting is Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at the municipal building.