The White Sulphur Springs City Council met on Tuesday, Oct. 9, due to the Columbus Day holiday.
Council members heard feedback from citizens about Ordinance 505.07, which bans livestock and other animals from residing within city limits. The council also passed a proclamation declaring Nov. 18-24, 2018 as Christian Heritage Week and made a vote on supporting Home Rule as a permanent program.
The meeting was largely dominated by discussion regarding Ordinance 505.07, which states that “no person shall keep, maintain, possess, or have any live animal or fowl enumerated in Section 505.05 on any property situated within municipal city limits.” It continues to say, “the purpose of this ordinance is to eliminate the presence of said animals and fowls within municipal city limits.” However, the document clarifies that any person who has previously been granted a permit for such animals may continue to keep them.
According to Mayor Bruce Bowling, this new language only varies slightly from the old ordinance. He says that fowl and other animals were already banned within city limits unless the owners applied for a special permit for them. The new ordinance simply removes the permit process, so no animals are permitted overall.
Several citizens attended the meeting to comment, including Dan Nuckols, who has previously spoken out in favor of keeping chickens within the city. Nuckols alleged that the (now removed) permit process was unfair and explained his difficulties in acquiring a permit for his chickens that he already possessed in town. He says he had to go so far as to hire a lawyer to apply without having to pay a fee. Bowling defended the city, saying that even though fowl were now banned and Nuckols was keeping chickens illegally without a permit, he would be allowed to keep them despite the new language.
“This is not about whether to allow chickens or not to allow chickens,” Bowling said. “I don’t understand what it even is that you want. You’ve got your chickens, they’re grandfathered in.”
“I just want the laws to be followed is what I want.” Nuckols interjected.
“You didn’t follow the law when you got your chickens initially,” Bowling pointed out. Nuckols admitted that he did fail to follow the permit protocol and acquire permission before attaining the chickens.
Another citizen came forward to say that he was unaware that he was breaking policy by owning chickens on his farm. Dr. Lynell Braught came before the council to seek an alternative solution to his chickens if he is not permitted to own them. Dr. Braught explained how well chickens work to protect his crops as a pest control regime, and emphasized that they use other methods on the farm as well. Bowling said he would help search for a solution.
Ultimately, the council voted to pass Ordinance 505.07 after the second reading.
In other news, the council declared Nov. 18-24, to be Christian Heritage Week in White Sulphur Springs, following a proclamation by Governor Jim Justice. The proclamation encourages local churches to participates with “relevant Sunday School lessons, sermons, patriotic song services, youth programs, and prayer meetings” should they choose to join in.
The council signed a proclamation supporting Home Rule as a permanent program for the city, which is currently only temporary. Home Rule gives cities more freedom to legislate local issues without having to appeal to a higher authority in Charleston. This makes simple processes faster and cheaper to finalize, and allows for less cumbersome local legislature. According to the resolution, “enacting a home rule pilot program was to provide municipalities the framework in which to explore new ideas and evaluate the results to determine the viability of implementing solutions on a statewide basis, and empower the municipal citizen with local control at the local level.”
The city proclaimed that it will work with the West Virginia Municipal League to pursue the passage of a permanent program.
The next White Sulphur Springs City Council meeting with be Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.