BY DEBBIE PAGE
Kudzu and other invasive vegetation can be a nightmare for homeowners, and the Troutman Town Council has asked the Planning & Zoning Board for guidance in crafting a possible ordinance to allow temporary goat grazing within the town limits in an effort to halt this overgrowth.
The consideration of the ordinance began with a request from former Town Planner Erika Martin for permission to allow goats to graze on her quarter acre property, which was being overtaken by kudzu. She was hesitant to expose her children and pets to herbicides to eliminate the unwanted vegetation.
The Troutman Code of Ordinances states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to keep any domestic fowl, cow, sheep, hog, pig, swine, goat, horse, mule, or other livestock within the corporate limits of the town, unless authorized pursuant to others specific provisions of this article or unless authorized under a specific provision of the unified development ordinance of the town.”
Livestock is allowed in the ETJ, on farms, and in rural preservation areas. Horses are allowed in the town limits with certain restrictions, and town residents already raising fowl on their property when the ordinance was passed were allowed to continue doing so.
The 2018 Unified Development Ordinance revision removed livestock provisions, other than defining livestock, with the intent that the Code of Ordinances be updated to possibly allow temporary uses. However, that update never occurred, according to Town Council member George Harris.
Interim Planning Director Jonathan Wells has begun researching other municipalities’ codes to create a draft ordinance for consideration, finding a few in places such as Knoxville, Tenn., and Maplewood, Minn. Planning and Zoning Board Chair Randy Farmer also found one in Horseshoe, N.C.
In his research, Farmer discovered that goats will eat about 2 percent of body weight per day, or approximately four pounds. He also learned that as herd animals, goats should be deployed only in groups.
Wells said the ordinance should reflect limits on the number of goats and allowed time period, and board member Karen Van Vliet also pointed out that the number of times annually that goats were allowed to graze should also be included.
Mayor Pro Tem Paul Henkel requested that sanitary conditions should be stated in the ordinance, and board member Brent Tedder suggested electric or other fencing conditions to contain goats should also be included.
“We need to research this, not just shoot from the hip,” said Henkel. “We don’t want to have a number of goats that’s not effective and have to change it again.”
He advocated keeping the herd small so the animals’ presence would not be offensive to neighbors.
Tedder suggested using the Martin property as a study to help determine the effective number of goats and the appropriate time period to achieve vegetation eradication.
Henkel asked Wells and the board to research and study a proposed ordinance over the next few months and to come up with recommendations to present to council on the issue.
Removing unwanted vegetation is expensive and can harm the environment. Some areas are not accessible to machines, and hand removal is difficult and expensive. Using herbicides like glyphosate can be harmful to water, soil, other vegetation, humans, and animals.
Goats love to eat pesky plants such as poison ivy, kudzu, English ivy, privet, wisteria, and honeysuckle. They also have narrow, triangular mouths that crush vegetation and seeds that could sprout later. Machine cutting actually spreads seeds, resulting in unwanted more vegetation later.
Since goats do not prefer grass, lawn areas are not damaged, and their manure is a natural soil fertilizer.
TROUTMAN ALTERNATIVE STUDY
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Troutman advisory committee was working with Stantec to create transportation alternatives to the Southwest Bypass and Main Street widening. Stantec was close to finalizing the work, but the process went on the back burner with the stay-at-home orders this spring and early summer.
Wells said now is a good time “to put the train back on the track” and take a look at the work product to date and move toward completion. He proposed a Zoom meeting with the committee and Stantec reps in the next two weeks, with a work product presentation to the Planning and Zoning Board at its November meeting.
Along with board feedback, Wells plans to present the Stantec proposals to the Town Council at its December meeting.
STATE REQUIRED RE-CODIFICATION
The N.C. General Assembly passed state statute 160D in 2019 to consolidate current city and county statutes for development regulations into a single, unified chapter. According to the UNC School of Government, the new statute places development laws into a more logical, coherent organization.
The new law does not make major policy changes or authority shifts from local governments. It does provide clarifications and consensus reforms that must be incorporated into local development regulations by July 1, 2021.
Counties and municipalities must use this period for the development, consideration, and adoption of amendments to conform their local ordinances with this new law. All city and county zoning, subdivision, and UDOs must be compliant by that deadline.
Also, cities and counties that have zoning ordinances must have an up-to-date comprehensive land-use plan by July 1, 2022.
Wells said that the town has contracted with the Centralina Council of Government to create a plan of attack to align with these new requirements. He plans to bring staff from CCOG to both Planning and Zoning and Town Council meetings to provide updates and status reports on their progress.
A work product should be ready for officials’ review in the next few months. Wells said the process involves a line-by-line comparison of 160D and the current town UDO and ordinances to ensure compliance.
Rick and Brenda Morrow requested that a 1.15-acre parcel of their larger property be rezoned from rural preservation to suburban residential so that they can re-subdivide this parcel with their adjoining property to create a 2.49-acre parcel to deed to their son.
The parcel was changed to rural preservation in 2018 when a group of approximately 30 landowners requested a change to that status to discourage residential or industrial development. The council asked that all properties less than 3 acres be removed from the request, and this parcel was mistakenly left in when the council passed the rezoning.
When the Morrisons went to subdivide their property, they discovered that they could not proceed under rural preservation zoning. The board unanimously passed their rezoning request to suburban residential to facilitate the couple’s proposed re-subdivision plans.
MEETING DATE CHANGES
Because of holiday conflicts, the board rescheduled their next two meetings. The November meeting was moved from the 23rd to the 16th, and the December meeting was moved from 28th to the 14th.