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Village board adopts animal code changes

SPRINGVILLE – The Village of Springville Board of Trustees held a public hearing and adopted changes to its small animal code during a meeting Jan. 16.

After residents voiced their opinions of the code at a meeting on Sept. 11, residents came to the public hearing to see the additional changes and share their thoughts on the new code before the board made its decision.

Some of the changes to the code included specifying the definition of a cat owner and excluded trap, neuter, vaccinate and return volunteers from the definition. For chickens, changes included coops and runs being 35-feet from adjoining properties attached structures used for human activities and other wording changes to help clarify certain sections.

Revising the small animal code started after a neighbor dispute over the housing of chickens in the village. A survey was later sent to Springville residents with about 50 percent in favor and 50 percent against chickens in the village. The village then made a committee to revise the code to benefit both sides of the issue, in which trustees Terry Skelton and Robert Moriarty headed and spoke on their process for the changes.

“It truly was a balancing act between the right of homeowners who have chickens and the rights of neighbors,” Skelton said. “I congratulate the committee that worked on this. We has consensus pretty much every line that we went through. We had professionals, we had planning board members, general public, chicken owners … everybody had a very, very open mind.”

During the public hearing, residents thanked the board and the committee for the work throughout the process and expressed their opinions and concerns on both sides of the issue. Within the revised code, some residents questioned sections including that waste cannot be composted or mulched onsite, waste must be kept in appropriate containers and the location of coops and runs from adjoining properties.

“I think there are some areas of the proposed law that go against the intent,” resident Seth Wochensky said. “I know the intent is to try and balance freedom of one neighbor to enjoy their property in a way without infringing on the rights of another neighbor and I think several of the clauses in here are either unenforceable or are going to present problems that go against that intent.”

In the board’s discussion, trustees expressed their opinions both for and against the revisions to the small animal code. Trustee Nils Wikman spoke against changes to the code, stating the subjectiveness to enforcing the code and the fact that the few people who this law is meant for should not dictate the direction for the entire community.

“One of my major concerns with this ordinance is the near impossibility for enforcement,” Wikman said. “The ability to quantify noise and smell can easily be challenged in any court, therefore on the face, I cannot see in any way that this ordinance is equitable. As I see it after three years and $30,000 in legal fees, we have created a law that in inequitable, unenforceable and does nothing to create good neighbors.”

At the end of the trustee’s discussion, the board voted to adopt the changes to the small animal code law, with Wikman voting against the adoption.

“I think the committee has done a great job looking at other communities that faced a similar question,” Mayor William Krebs said. “The purpose of the law is not to instruct people or make legal the best chicken rearing practices. The purpose of the law is to set guidelines for people to get along with one another if one person wants to raise chickens.”

The revised small animal code law is available at villageofspringville.com or all the village office, 5 W. Main St. The Village Board of Trustees will next meet Monday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Public Safety Building.

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