The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 22, 2013

City planner: Goats causing stink in upscale neighborhood

By Karen Middleton

— Goats are becoming a nuisance in an east side upscale neighborhood, according to Athens Planning Commission member Gina Garth.

Garth’s comments came after a request on Tuesday’s Planning Commission agenda by local radiologist, Dr. Joe Cannon, to locate a “Hobby Farm” on his property adjacent to Briarwood Circle was delayed for action by one month until Sept. 17, at the applicant’s request.

Garth said she could not be present for the September meeting and wanted to express her opinion on the matter.

“I live in the subdivision next to Briarwood Circle and I’ve gotten numerous calls from people who live there saying he (Cannon) doesn’t keep his animals contained,” said Garth. “They say he lets the goats run loose, and they are defecating on their yards. They are frequently out because they don’t have proper containment. I don’t know if the covenants of that subdivision allow for animals.

“They say he also lets his dogs run loose, and now he’s talking about having horses and goats.”

Planning Commission Chairman Rod Huffman suggested Cannon’s neighbors “take it upon themselves to enforce regulations.”

However, Commission member Harold Wales said he supported Garth in her objections.

“We can say no (when the matter comes up for vote) and be legally right,” said Wales. “People have invested huge amounts in these houses and don’t have to have that next to them.”

When contacted Wednesday, Cannon denied having farm animals currently on his property.

“I’ve got two dogs and 99 percent of the time they stay in my yard, but they do get out sometimes,” said Cannon. “In the past, I have two or three goats that I keep on long cables to keep my creek banks clean. Any kind of animal will get out occasionally.”

Cannon said his property encompasses 20 acres in the city limits and when he moved there nearly 10 years ago the back part of his property was a “mosquito swamp.” He said he has since made the property like a “manicured park” where he can have guests. He said it would further add to the enjoyment of his guests and family if he were allowed to keep two horses within a $4,000 to $5,000 fence he has erected. He said he wants more goats in the future to keep the creek bank maintained.

Huffman said “Hobby Farms” are allowed under residential or R-1-1 zoning. But if subdivision restrictions or covenants forbid livestock that the applicant can’t use the city ordinance to supercede the subdivision restrictions.

“However, even if his adjacent property does not lie within the subdivision, it is still in the city limits and subject to R-1-1 zoning restrictions and he will have to get a conditional use from the Planning Commission,” said Huffman.

In regular business, the Planning Commission:

• Granted preliminary and final approval for a 10-lot subdivision in an Agricultural District at Edgewood and Airport roads. The measures passed on a 6-1 vote, with Wales voting “no” because the subdivision is not within 500 feet of a sewer line. City Planner Mac Martin said each lot is at least 3 acres and can accommodate septic tanks.

“I can’t support subdivisions that don’t have sewer,” said Wales. “We spend a lot of time moving this city forward. I won’t vote on the status quo.”

• Postponed a public hearing and vote to within the next 60 days on a request by Mark Wilson to rezone 13 properties with six different owners at the northeast quadrant of Elm and Jefferson streets from M-1 Light Industrial to B-3 (Highway Business). Three of the six property owners have not provided adequate documentation of ownership.