Town of Jamestown addresses issues with pigs in town. Pets or Not?
In anticipation of a large turnout at the July 9 Planning Board meeting, the meeting was moved to the Civic Center, where most of the seats were filled.
The audience had come to hear discussion about a proposed text amendment to the Land Development Ordinance regarding the keeping of pigs within town limits.
Lori Herron, of 2216 Guilford College Road, has requested the Town create a text amendment to Article 3, Definitions, of the LDO. The article currently defines “limited agriculture” as “the keeping of gardens and animals for non-commercial domestic use. Such agriculture generally refers to, but is not limited to, domestic fowl such as chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, bees, and other small animals (ex: rabbits). Limited agriculture does not permit livestock such as horses, cows, llamas, sheep, swine or the like.”
Herron claims her pot-belly pigs are pets and therapy animals, not livestock. She wants to amend the text to read, “Limited agriculture does not permit livestock, animals used for food or fiber, such as horses, cows, llamas, sheep, swine over 300 pounds, or the like, not to include miniature or pot-bellied pigs that are kept as and considered to be pets.”
“We’re seeking to clarify that pigs of a certain size, specifically miniature pigs, are not livestock,” Herron said. She added that the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not consider them to be livestock. Nor does her veterinarian.
According to the Internet, pot-belly pigs can weigh from 60 to 250 pounds, be 13-30 inches tall and live 12-15 years. A typical farm pig, destined for slaughter, could weigh up to 770 pounds and be 35-71 inches tall.
Planning Director Matthew Johnson is opposed to the amendment.
“Essentially what this does is to allow anybody in a residential-zoned neighborhood to be able to keep an unlimited number of the pigs as long as they are 300 pounds or less,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure we could define the word ‘pet’.”
Johnson has checked other municipalities and most prohibit pigs in city limits but, if they are permitted, there is a limit of two. Herron has 10.
All but three of the public comments at the meeting were against allowing pigs inside town limits. Several speakers were nearby property owners. One speaker brought up that Herron should have checked local and state ordinances before acquiring her first pig.
“The proposed ordinance is dangerous,” said Elizabeth Van Horn.
“It’s a hog farm,” said Fred Plunkett. “Nobody wants to live near a hog farm.”
Rich Salyards, who lives several miles away, pointed out that once the Town makes an exception to a rule, it opens up the chance that other people will want an exception.
The two positive speakers were Herron’s son and a friend.
“They are pets,” said Sam Herron. “We do not eat them or sell them. We clean them. When they die they are buried or cremated.”
“When Lori has a seizure, the pigs come running,” said Tracy Grant, a friend. She stated that she stopped eating pork when one of Herron’s favorite pigs passed away.
One speaker was not opposed to the text amendment but said it was too broad and would cause future problems.
A roll call vote by Planning Board members resulted in a unanimous decision to deny the text amendment as presented and to recommend the decision to the Town Council, which will likely hold a public hearing on the topic at its Aug. 20 meeting. Johnson would like the Council to request his department do more research and suggest an ordinance update which would better define the requirements for keeping “miniature” or “pot-bellied” pigs in residentially zoned areas, as well as guidelines for limitations on the keeping of other animals (cats, dogs, exotic pets, etc.), including numbers and conditions for each.
The matter began when the town’s Planning Department received an anonymous phone call on Feb. 26 of this year complaining of “trash and odors” coming from Herron’s residence. Johnson investigated and found a large pile of plumbing rubbish in the yard. When he attempted to go to the front door to speak with the owner, his access was blocked by a fence enclosing 10 pigs.
Johnson called to request a meeting, which was set up and then canceled. Johnson then sent a notice on Feb. 27 outlining several violations and requesting the rubbish be removed within 10 days and the pigs within 30 days. The plumbing trash was removed but Herron requested an additional 60 days to find a new home for the pigs, thus moving the date of compliance to May 27.
Herron attended the Town Council meeting May 21 and asked to be allowed to keep the pigs on her property. She said she had been told in the past by the Town that the pigs were not a problem. They had become members of her family and she presented a letter from her doctor saying they were emotional support animals.
In other business, Eddie Oakley, Sherrie Richmond and Steve Monroe volunteered to be on the Comprehensive Plan Update Steering Committee. A fourth member will be appointed in the future.
The Comprehensive Plan is a planning tool that is the guiding document for the Planning Board and Town Council. It addresses growth, land use, development, infrastructure, parks and recreation, and historic preservation. Public meetings will be held in upcoming months to learn the community’s thoughts on needs of the town.
The current Comprehensive Plan was developed in 2010 and the 2020 Land Development Plan in 2007. The 2007 Parks & Recreation Master Plan is currently being updated but it, along with the LDP, 2008 Downtown Market Assessment, 2008 Land Development Ordinance, 2010 Deep River Train Plan and 1996 Urban Design Assistance Team (UDAT) Plan, will be updated and consolidated into a master policy document.
Story by Carol Brooks – Photo courtesy Kellog Garden Products A pot-belly pig.