Urban agriculture ordinances stalled in Morgantown

Mtown LogoMORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Morgantown Green Team led a one-year effort to develop more detailed ordinances governing so-called urban agriculture within city limits.  Their proposals stalled in city council chambers Tuesday night.

Council was set to take the final vote on 3 ordinances on urban agriculture and regulations on  the type and number of animals city residents can have on their property.

Part of the related ordinances would go so far as to allow city residents as many as 6 hens, 3 rabbits and specified hoofed livestock in this backyards.

The controversial topic drew a standing room only crowd to the council meeting.

“I’m just another citizen.  I’m just trying to do the best I can.  And, when I have other people who are knowledgable giving me good information, that just makes my decisions better,” said Deputy Mayor Bill Kawecki.

He was one of several council members expected to vote in favor of the ordinances.

But, following public response from more than 15 city residents, both supportive and opposed to the proposals, Kawecki and the 5 other council members in attendance voted to table the matter.

A number of residents in the Hopecrest neighborhood were particularly outspoken sharing concerns of what chickens in particular might attract.

Among the worries:

-wildlife and rodents attracted to fowl and its food

-the odor and run off of excrement from chickens and other animals

-enforcement of more complex urban agriculture ordinances

A majority of audience members sited concerns over a neighbor they say is not adhering to any of the regulations already in place.

“It’s more of a reaction to someone in one neighborhood not being as sensitive to the issues as they might have been,” Kawecki observed.

Still, Kawecki said further clarification is needed in the proposed ordinances including ideas on registration of animals falling under the ordinances and how to realistically enforce the codes.

“I want to guarantee that the city can actually give some reasonable assurance that it will be done properly,” said Kawecki.

Some residents fear no movement on the proposals would keep them from growing and raising their own food.

The sooner less vague or more agreed upon ordinances are drafted, the better said Kawecki.

“Everybody wants to move this forward as quickly as possible because what we have in place now obviously is not working.  It’s caused us the problem we have.”

The urban agriculture discussion dominated at least 2 hours of the 3 and a half hour meeting.