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The City Journals

Zone changes, affecting large animal owners

Feb 09, 2017 04:57PM ● By Briana Kelley

Residents speak about their large-animal rights at a packed council meeting on Dec. 6. (Briana Kelley/City Journals)

By Briana Kelley | [email protected]

The South Jordan City Council voted unanimously at the Dec. 6 council meeting to amend the farm animal floating zone, effectively ending a months-long debate and leaving residents on both sides feeling dissatisfied with the outcome.

Consideration of a zone amendment began when applicants Melvin and Eileen Luker requested that the city reduce the number of points assigned to large farm animals in order to legally allow someone to have two large farm animals, specifically horses, on a half-acre property. South Jordan currently allots a point value to various farm animals categorized as large, medium, small and very small.

“I think the underlying question we should have been asking is, are we OK with two horses on a half-acre,” Mayor David Alvord said. “If we would have done that, it would have been a much faster vote up or down, but we came up with a very complex ordinance. I just recommend that in the future we keep it simple.”

The new zone requirements prorate the points allowed per lot or parcel so that each one-hundredth of an acre is equivalent to six-tenths of a point for lots a half-are or larger. The city also provides a way for horse owners to have two horses on a half-acre parcel if they can meet certain conditions, including: containing animals in a dedicated 2,000-square-foot area, providing a 10-foot setback from the property line adjacent to neighboring property that does not qualify for farm animals, storing grain for animal feed in rodent-proof containers, regularly collecting animal waste and storing it at least 40 feet from the property line and providing a 144-square-foot covered structure for the animals.

“In summary of what it does, is every eligible farm animal property in the city, either by points or by exception would in theory be able to have a second horse on their property,” City Planner Jake Warner said. “What it does not do is increase or decrease the number of farm animal properties in the city. It does not change the regulations, except for the reclassification of donkeys, burros, ponies, miniature horses and alpacas. It does not affect existing, valid grandfather rights.”

Warner explained that, in order for someone to have grandfathered rights in this situation, they would have to have a property over 0.5 acre in an R-1.8, R-2.5, A-1 or A-5 zone and they would have to have kept two horses on the property since 1995 when the code last changed. All others would need to comply with the recent code changes in order to qualify for two horses. Warner estimates that there are 1,216 properties directly affected by the change.

When asked whether the new zone better meets the needs of residents, Luker responded absolutely not.

“It makes it much more difficult. It makes it much harder to comply,” Luker said. “It goes in the opposite direction of where I wanted to see it. It will discourage people from having a second horse on the property. We at least got it to where I can have two horses, but others will not be able to meet the requirements, and it makes it very difficult for those moving onto a property to comply.”

Residents who opposed any change to the zone also said that the new zone fell far short of meeting the needs of the majority of residents.

“It meets the needs of a tiny fraction of the residents,” resident Mike Bellows said. “It’s hard to know who desires to have horses or who wants to buy horses. I really believe that it is really a fraction of people. It does not serve the residents who have lived here, who have put money into their property and made a huge investment and who do not want horses as neighbors.”

Opponents to the change also worry there will be no enforcement of the new requirements and that the surrounding properties will be negatively affected. 

“Changing it was far worse than what it was before,” resident Pamela Sorensen said. “I would like this to be voted on so that enough citizens know about this issue. There are a lot of people like me who have no idea that this could happen to them, that horses could move onto a lot next door.”

When making their decision, council members negotiated the required area from 5,000 square feet to 2,000 square feet in an attempt to find a compromise between the rights of property owners.

“I’m weighing the right of the homeowner, of giving this an avenue for her to have another horse, but I’m also weighing the impacts of property owners, that other people have their property rights and should be able to enjoy their property as well,” Councilmember Christopher Rogers said during the meeting. “So I’m trying to find that balance.”

In their closing statements, council members stressed that they had listened to all residents and they were not biased towards or against horses. The ordinance passed 4-0; Councilmember Don Shelton was absent.

“We have to find something that makes sense for South Jordan, and the burden is on us to do that,” Councilmember Brad Marlor said. “My greatest concern is that we, the council, have to find a balance between those individuals, most of you in this room, that want to have farm horses, and I applaud having farm animals,…and the impact on the many other properties. I do have a problem with the impact. The impact has to be acknowledged, and I do believe there has to be a necessary balance.”