Cody people will retain the right to keep buffalo, hogs, bulls, horses, sheep and other large livestock on residential property in city limits.
After hearing arguments from city-resident livestock owners, on Tuesday city councilors dropped on first reading a proposed ordinance intended to regulate large animals. The action died for lack of a motion.
None of the roughly 15 people who attended the meeting specifically because of the proposed ordinance spoke in support of the restrictions. In the end, council members thanked people for speaking up and encouraged further citizen involvement as a way to help them make difficult decisions.
Unlike other Wyoming communities, Cody allows livestock in city limits, even in residential areas.
Council members had asked city attorney Scott Kolpitcke to write an ordinance prohibiting people from keeping livestock on properties within the single family residential R-1 zone, and regulating livestock kept in other zones. The proposed ordinance defined livestock as cattle, bulls, steers, buffalo, horses, pigs, hogs, mules, donkeys, sheep, lambs, goats, llamas and alpacas. It did not prohibit small animals such as chickens and rabbits.
If adopted, the ordinance would have prohibited livestock within 100 feet of any neighboring residential building. The minimum lot size for keeping livestock was set at 3/4 acre for the first two animals, and one additional acre for each additional animal. Property owners would have to fence in livestock.
A “grandfather” provision would have allowed property owners with livestock in town to continue keeping the animals as long as they complied with other applicable city codes. But the right would be lost when livestock were removed or died, or if the property were sold.
Main points made by opponents addressed Cody’s status as a “cowboy town” where tourists expect an authentic western experience.
“Let Cody stay Cody,” people said. They argued for property rights, saying the city’s nuisance ordinance already addresses issues animals may cause. They expressed fear once the city prohibits large animals in one zone, it will expand the regulations to other zones, and they questioned whether an animal problem even exists. Regarding manure odors, several people said mulch piles for gardens smell worse.
As one person after another argued against the ordinance, people in the audience clapped to show their approval. Alan Petersen, who said neighbors enjoy looking at his mules, questioned conditions of the grandfather clause.
“If I lose a mule, I lose half my team,” he said.
Suggesting the city operate with fewer rules, he said the city instead should focus on enforcing laws already in place.
Debra Benton said in 26 years her animals have never caused a problem. Addressing fairness, she said her R-1 zoned, 1-1/3-acre property sets between neighboring lots zoned R-2.
“Someone could have a horse on either side of my house,” she said. “But under the [proposed livestock] ordinance, I could not have one.”
Benton also pointed to the advantage of horses and llamas eating pasture grasses versus the need for a burn permit.
“It’s not about our property use,” she said. “It’s about enjoying our life as we see fit.”
Richard Jones wondered if a problem exists. Without an inventory of livestock in Cody, he said there’s no way to know whether an ordinance is warranted.
“For me to make a judgement, I need to know the scope of the problem, and no one can answer that question,” he said. “Making a regulation based on complaints is a bad road to go down.”
As the town becomes more urbanized and people lose interest in livestock, any issues will die naturally, he added.
Linda Raynolds, whose property is in a commercial district, said she’d bought land because it offered certain property rights. Although the ordinance would allow horses on her land, she was concerned about “ambiguous” language along with the restrictions on acreage and distance to structures.
“I have a real problem with more regulations; more government,” she said, later pleading, “Please don’t add to the regulatory burden.”
Addressing a provision in the code that would prohibit electric fencing except with the council’s approval, Raynolds said, “That’s crazy.”
Council vice president Jerry Fritz had asked Kolpitcke to add the provision because of his concern someone, especially a child, could grab the wire fence unaware of its electric shock danger.
Jack and Diane Martin own five residential properties on 19th Street, including ones on either side of a lot where they’d torn down a “drug house” and created a half-acre pen for 1-3 horses.
Jack said the horse pen was an improvement over the run-down house and horses now keep the formerly unkept property weed-free.
“I found out after we did this that the kids and tourists love it,” he said.
Noting Cody’s status as the “rodeo capital of the world,” Jack said: “My goodness gracious, if you can’t have horses in the city of Cody, where can you have them?”
His preference was for the city to address individual issues rather than implement a city-wide standard.
“I’d like to see this thing die tonight,” he said. “You will see a lot of horses in the [City Hall] parking lot if it goes to second reading.”
Ward 2 rep Karen Ballinger was vocal in her opposition to animals in town, saying her intention was to protect those people who don’t want livestock in their neighborhoods.
In her childhood, Ballinger said Cody yards weren’t fenced as they are now.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t want horses next to me.”
Although a minority had attended the meeting to speak out, she said the majority of people would support regulating large animals in city limits.
Other councilors were clear their final decision was based on what they’d learned from people who had spoken out.
Fritz originally wanted to table action to allow time to “broaden language” and address “wants and needs of the community.” He’d sought to allow educational uses involving FFA or 4-H projects.
“I certainly want to hear what people have to say,” he said early on. In the end, however, he saw no reason to adopt the ordinance in any form. Other councilors were of like mind.
Council president Landon Greer said when the topic first came up he’d “had some heartache over it,” yet tried to keep an open mind. In the past week, though, he’d decided against supporting the livestock ordinance.
“It’s Cody,” he said. “We don’t want to be Jackson.”
That no one came forward to support the proposed law reinforced his position of nonsupport.
“I don’t want to table it,” he said. “I just want it to go away.”
Councilman Donny Anderson agreed.
“I’m not going to support it even if it’s changed,” he said.
He and others expressed appreciation to the people for sharing their views. They encouraged continued involvement.
“We’re here to represent you,” Anderson said. “So give us your opinion so we can represent you.”
Stan Wolz, who arrived ready to support the ordinance ultimately reversed his stance.
Mayor Matt Hall acknowledged the council’s task of decision-making is difficult without citizen input.
“Let us know how you feel,” he said. “It makes it easier.”