County planners talk goats in residential zoning districts

Should goats be permitted in residential areas under the county’s zoning ordinance?

That was the gist of a question presented to the Warren County Planning Commission on Tuesday by a Tidioute couple who were given a zoning violation for possessing four small goats.

Planning Director Michael Lyon said that Justin and Emily Sweitzer’s property is zoned residential and the violation for housing goats was handed down in November.

He told the Commission that the zoning ordinance requires a 150-foot setback for any pen, barn or housing for livestock or farm animals.

Lyon said there are two options that could potentially allow the family to keep the goats — amending the setback requirement or creating a separate section in the ordinance, similar to regulations implemented several years ago regarding backyard chickens.

He cautioned against reducing the setback.

“We feel that maybe an exception would be granted to us because of our unique circumstance,” Emily Sweitzer told the board, which includes “farm land on three sides.”

She said they decided to get the goats because “it’s becoming more and more recognized” that they are “better companions than even dogs.”

Sweitzer said the goats will be smaller than the majority of domestic house dogs — a maximum of 21 inches tall and 50 pounds.

Lyon told the Commission that there is “no way” the Sweitzer’s property could meet the setback requirements.

Emily Sweitzer noted there is no definition for livestock in the zoning ordinance.

Lyon responded by saying that he based his determination on a call to a 4-H group where he asked if goats were livestock.

“They’re livestock,” he said.

The commission expressed a need for more information.

Chair Paul Pascuzzi said they would need to hear what other municipalities are doing both in Warren County and around the state.

“To change the law for a few goats is not going to be easy,” he said. “This is an unusual circumstance.”

“We are compassionate about the situation,” Commission member Tom Brown said, noting that they’ll have to weigh the “ramification” in the other municipalities covered by the ordinance regarding any changes.

“We’re willing to look at this and see what we can do about it,” he said.


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