On Oct. 13, the Blythe City Council voted unanimously to suspend certain provisions of the Blythe Municipal Code (BMC) related to light animal keeping in an effort to support livestock projects of area youth agricultural programs amid the ongoing COVID-19 climates’ restriction impact.
“Members of FFA (Future Farmers of America) have historically housed livestock projects at the PVHS (Palo Verde High School) livestock facility. As schools are not open for in-person instruction due to COVID-19, FFA members are unable to utilize the livestock facility for the 2021 school year,” stated Blythe Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius. “PVHS representatives have requested their students be able to house animals at their place of residence for the project year. This would require the city to temporarily suspend the requirements of the Blythe Municipal Code sections 17.08.010, 17.54.020(a) and 17.54.030.”
The respective BMC (section 17.08.080) defines “Animal Keeping (Light)” as the “premises where animals are fed or kept for personal use, for 4-H, or other agricultural projects by the owner or occupant of the premises” as limited by Chapter 17.54.
“Blythe Municipal Code Section 17.54 states no person shall keep or maintain oxen or swine on property within the city, and no person shall keep or maintain sheep, goats, cattle or any other type of livestock on any property or premise within the city in any residential or commercial zone, except as otherwise regulated and permitted,” stated the background information provided by the Oct. 13 staff report.
Further, the Oct. 13 staff report noted:
“Issuance of an order temporarily suspending the provisions of (BMC) sections 17.08.010, 17.54.020(a) and 17.54.030 and establishing certain requirements relating to keeping such animals during the period of suspension is reasonably related to the protection of life and property affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Notably, Blythe City Councilmember Joe Halby shared a concern over kids who reside in apartment buildings potentially being left out.
“Yes, kids who have some situations – we’ll find them a home somewhere; and we’ll try to make it work,” stated Blythe Councilmember Joey DeConinck. “Hopefully it goes smooth and, we’ll go from there. And, if any kid needs any help – contact me, please.”
As further clarified by Crecelius during discussion, the temporary BMC changes for light animal keeping is citywide – not specific or sole to one or certain youth livestock programs, but apropos to all code-abiding residents.
Several specific guidelines were highlighted by staff – including, but not limited to, the following:
• Only lambs, goats, and pigs shall be permitted pursuant to the order;
• Only one (1) lamb, goat, or pig shall be permitted per property;
• Prior to keeping or maintaining an animal permitted by the order on his or her property, a person shall obtain written consent from all neighbors within a one hundred foot (100’) radius from the person’s property. In the event the person does not obtain written consent from all neighbors within such radius, the person shall not keep the animal on his/her property. Copies of the written approvals shall be provided to the city upon request;
• The City Manager, in consultation with the Animal Control Officer and/or Code Enforcement, may direct the removal of any animal permitted by the order if the City Manager determines: (1) the person keeping or maintaining the animal is not complying with the requirements of the order, (2) the animal is the subject of one or more complaints that cannot be reasonably corrected, or (3) removal is necessary for the public health, safety or welfare.
Further guidelines per the written order (No. 2020-01) outline site inspection and according discretionary control by the city’s Animal Control Officer.
“With these guidelines in place, allowing these animals in residential neighborhoods on a temporary basis will have minimal impacts on the neighborhoods. Suspending these sections of the BMC for a limited term will enable a number of high school students to participate in the FFA program this year,” stated the Oct. 13 item’s staff report. “As of now, most of these students do not have alternative housing solutions and would have to forego participation this school year. It is estimated 8 goats, 13 lambs, and between 30 and 50 pigs could be housed within residential neighborhoods by students over the next few months. Under the proposed guidelines, animals must be removed from neighborhoods no later than March 31, 2021.”
In attendance to answer any questions from officials was PVHS agriculture instructor Mary Ann Maxfield, accompanied by local youth Katelyn Bush, Morgan Nicklaus, and McKenzie Crawford.
“I just wanted to approach you and thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of our 394 members. Normally we have over 100 animals that proceed to the fair each year; due to the restrictions of COVID and what they’ve placed on the farm, it was just not feasible to open this year – unfortunately. So, as we got together with members of the city of Blythe, we were able to develop this plan to hopefully allow these animals to be housed within city ordinances,” said Maxfield, who was thanked by Councilmember Johnny Rodriguez for the work toward providing this years’ livestock program opportunity to area kids. “It’s a community effort. Blythe is a strong community and very ag-fortunate to be able to give these kids these opportunities. So, again, I thank you for taking the time to look into this matter and we can answer any questions you guys may have at a later time.”
The only fiscal impact stated would be the staff time necessary to monitor the program and/or field complaints, should any be received.
By unanimous vote of 5-0, the Blythe City Council adopted Resolution 2020-046 to approve the temporary suspension of the presented light animal keeping BMC provisions.