The livestock ordinance the city of Kenai had been considering looked like it was going to gallop to approval at the city council meeting Wednesday night, but after an amendment was passed radically changing it, the ordinance was reined in.
The ordinance would have barred livestock from several downtown properties and restricted them to lots of 20,000 square feet or more. Currently, there are no restrictions on lot size or on how many or what kind of animals may be kept within city limits.
The ordinance proposed still would allow a wide variety of animals, ranging from cows, swine and horses to emus, donkeys and alpacas, but only on lots large enough and zoned properly. As written, the ordinance does not stipulate how many animals may be kept on a qualifying lot.
During debate, council member Pat Porter said that when she found out how big 20,000 square feet is -- about a half an acre -- she realized she could keep livestock on her property.
"I could have any of these animals on my lot," she said. "And I live in a subdivision."
She then proposed an amendment increasing the minimum lot size to 1.5 acres, or about 65,000 square feet. Council member Jim Bookey said he had a problem with the 20,000-square-feet size as well but thought 65,000 was too big.
"When Kenai was subdivided, it was into 2.5-acre lots, and many of those have been split in half," he said.
He said with most lots in the city being 1.25 acre or smaller, livestock would be barred from most of the city under a 1.5-acre rule.
Council member Duane Bannock, who is the council representative to the Planning and Zoning Commission, said 65,000 square feet was considered when the ordinance was being drafted and said it would exclude 80 percent of the property in Kenai.
Council member Bill Frazer said livestock had no place in a residential subdivision.
"I don't believe this ordinance is strong enough," Frazer said. "Right now we have no law against someone putting up Old MacDonald's Farm."
He also said he does not like the idea that if someone owned two adjacent pieces of property that together would meet the square-footage requirement, they would qualify to own livestock.
Mayor John Williams spoke against the 1.5-acre amendment when he pointed out that most lots in residential subdivisions are 7,200 square feet, and therefore protected.
"I think 20,000 is sufficient," he said, adding he was inclined to not vote for the ordinance at all.
City Animal Control Officer Bill Godek said he receives 20 livestock complaints a year. Williams asked him what he thought of the minimum lot size requirement.
"I think 20,000 in a rural residential lot is fine, but probably not in a suburban residential subdivision," he said.
Godek went on to say the deciding factor in successfully keeping livestock is the owner's attitude and ability, not just lot size.
When Porter's amendment to triple the lot size came up for a vote, it prevailed 4-3, with Porter, Frazer, Bannock and Joe Moore voting in favor.
Linda Swarner, Williams and Bookey dissented.
An amendment by Frazer was approved 7-0 asking that the ordinance be brought back before the council for review two years after it is enacted.
In further discussion of the ordinance, it was disclosed there could be no conditional-use permit granted, allowing some livestock on a lot smaller than 1.5 acres.
The provision caused Moore to waver.
"I supported 65,000 when I thought there could be conditional-use permits," he said.
When it became apparent the ordinance would not pass as amended, it was tabled on a 7-0 vote. The measure will be sent back to the Planning and Zoning Commission which will discuss allowing conditional uses at its meeting Wednesday night.
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