- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—City residents interested in participating in the ongoing urban agriculture conversation can do so at a public meeting from 5-7 p.m. tonight, at the Public Safety Building, on Spruce Street.

First readings of three urban agriculture-related laws were passed with 6-1 votes by the Morgantown City Council on June 2. Councilor Ron Bane voted in the minority.

When the laws returned to council for second readings and adoptions, they were accompanied by more than a dozen residents — both for and against — who spoke during public hearings on the topic.

Following the comments, council voted unanimously to table the issue pending further discussion.

While the changes are comprised of three laws, the one issue that has garnered the most attention pertains to agricultural animals.

In the proposed law, an amendment to Article 1331 of the city’s planning and zoning code, residents can engage in “Home Agriculture” by right in all zoning districts.

In regard to animals, “Home Agriculture” would include:

Six domestic poultry birds on parcels smaller than one acre — up from two as the law currently stands. Roosters are prohibited.

A maximum of three rabbits, at least 10 weeks old, on parcels smaller than one acre. No more than one rabbit can be male.

Hoofed animals, including horses, goats, sheep, pigs, deer and donkeys are prohibited, with the exception of miniature pet pigs.

Of the other two laws, one spells out a list of definitions — home agriculture, commercial agriculture, community gardens, etc. — and the other speaks to structures housing animals.

One of the issues raised by those who oppose the laws is the strain additional animals could place on the city’s code enforcement agents. It was suggested that strain could be reduced if residents who wish to raise agricultural animals had to register with the city, giving enforcement agents an address and contact person for such animals.

John Porter, a WVU Extension Agent in Kanawha County, first addressed urban agriculture with Morgantown’s City Council during a 2013 conference call in which he explained how Charleston set up urban agriculture.

Porter said the new laws could stretch enforcement agencies “if it’s over-regulated.”

Charleston’s laws went on the books two years ago and look very similar to those now proposed in Morgantown. Residents in Charleston do not have to register agricultural animals and enforcement is complaint driven.

“I think the city of Charleston wanted to really take an open-arms approach to urban agriculture because it’s been one of the hotter trends in cities across the country,” Porter said, later adding, “They wanted to open their arms to that, but they didn’t want to add a lot of stress on the system. That’s why they didn’t add a lot of extra enforcement … If something comes up, it’s handled, otherwise, it’s sort of a live-and-let-live policy.”

Morgantown City Manager Jeff Mikorski said that public workshops have played a large role in crafting the urban agriculture laws from the start.

“If people are favorably or unfavorably impacted by agricultural animals in the city and want to play a part in providing some input into the development of a new ordinance, they’re welcome and they’re invited to participate in [tonight’s] meeting,” Mikorski said.

If it is decided that changes need to be made to a proposed ordinance, it will begin the approval process again with a first reading.

City council’s committee of the whole meeting will follow at 7 p.m., in city hall.

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(c)2015 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

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