The Parker Town Code and how it applies to youth livestock programs was the subject of a work session of the Parker Town Council Nov. 12. Specifically, there was discussion of whether the code needs to be changed so more young people can participate in such programs.
In Parker, youth livestock programs are handled by organizations like 4-H and FFA. Police Chief Clay Romo told the council that, the way the code currently reads, many young people on the town’s residential lots would not be able to have livestock due to space and setback requirements. He also noted the code allows for animals in a 180-day period leading up to the La Paz County Fair. He said this kept young people from preparing animals to show for the state fair.
Romo said the town code requires the young person wanting to keep a livestock animal to get the approval of all of his or her surrounding neighbors. He said he would like to see a simple majority of neighbors supporting the idea of a livestock animal.
“Now, one person says ‘no’, and you can’t have an animal,” Romo said.
Romo said he supported youth livestock programs because they’re a great learning experience for young people.
Council Member Marion Shontz said she was concerned about animals not being cared for. If there are legitimate complaints during the youth program that an animal is not being cared for, that animal should be removed.
“It’s a privilege to keep an animal in the Town of Parker,” she said.
Shontz said the Town needed to find some kind of balance between how many animals can fit in a yard and how many young people want to have animals.
“I’m afraid we’re going to have too many animals on too small lots,” she said.
In a response top Shontz, Debbie Pettigrew of 4-H said they run a strict program. She said they are teaching young people about responsibility.
“We need those animals to be taken care of,” she said.
Pettigrew added she checks out many complaints herself.
Mayor Dan Beaver said he is a supporter of 4-H, but added the interests of other property owners need to be considered. He said the council needed to consider what would happen to the value of surrounding properties if livestock animals were kept on a property year round.
Beaver said the ordinance has served the town well, but maybe it needs changes.
Council Member Karen Bonds asked Romo how many complaints the police department receives during the 180-day period. He replied a “handful,” at most.
Council Member Frank Savino and Vice Mayor Jerry Hooper both said this was what the town code said, and added the town has changed since the ordinance was adopted in 1988 and amended in 2004.
“The area is changing,” Savino said. “This is the 21st Century. The program could go away. Perhaps 4-H, FFA and the Cooperative Extension Service could set up a central location for kids to have animals.”
“The ordinance says 180 days,” Hooper said. “We let the kids do this because we’re on their side.”
“Things are different now,” Hooper continued. “We don’t have wide open spaces in Parker anymore.”
Savino said the code says nothing about who is responsible for cleaning up after the animals are gone and the pens are torn down. He said that, when he was public works director, the crews would find a lot of disgusting stuff when they picked up trash in the alleys once the animals were gone.
The council heard from two people in Call to the Public. Kristin Nelson said the program is valuable for young people, and the town code is limiting their ability to participate in it. She said there shouldn’t be a limit on young people having animals, and they should not get the permission of their neighbors to have animals.
Nelson further stated the 180-day limit inhibits what young people can do with their animals.
“They can’t take it to a higher level,” she said.
Nelson said complaints should be forwarded to FFA and the 4-H Director and they should be involved in the process.
In Call to the Public, Pettigrew asked the council not to change the rules in the middle of the game and keep the same rules in place for this year.
This was a work session, so nothing could be decided. Beaver said they would likely need to have another work session before they made any decisions.
“It looks like we have some work to do,” he said.