The Auburn City Council held their monthly meeting on Monday, March 8 where the body voted to allow a few changes to be made to the city’s large animal ordinance. A second reading must be held before its passage.
Chalis Mann and her husband moved over 2000 miles to settle in Auburn and believed it was okay for their horse to come with them. Unfortunately, they are now having to face a battle as the city’s ordinance, as written, does not allow for livestock to be kept in the city limits.
The Mann’s and their attorney, JA Sowell, appeared virtually at the meeting to sort out the facts in hopes to settle the issue and keep their horse.
The ordinance change, if passed, will allow citizens who own five or more acres and a barn to keep either one horse, one donkey, one mule, one cow, one goat, or one sheep. But not all council members are on board with the change.
“I’ve had a lot of people contact me about it not wanting livestock inside the city limits,” said councilwoman Rhonda Sullivan. “Have you ever heard cows and donkeys? I mean they are loud.”
Sullivan said there were over 17 properties inside the city limits of Auburn that have more than five acres, and this ordinance amendment can potentially affect a whole lot of people.
“It’s not fair to accommodate one person. It should be for the betterment of the entire community, not just for one person,” said Sullivan. “I feel like we live in a place right now where everybody is afraid of hurting someone’s feelings and that’s unrealistic. You have to think about the majority. It’s nothing against y’all. I love animals. But you yourself said you read that ordinance before you even moved here and you knew.”
According to Mann, she had contacted Auburn Mayor Mike Hughes about the issue before moving to the city.
“We were told we could have the horse on the property. Not where the house sits but where the barn sits,” said Mann. “We understood the city ordinances for where the house sits.”
Mann continued saying, “Our real estate agent contacted him (the mayor) first. She communicated to us we could have the horse on the property where the barn sits. I said I need to hear it for myself. We are moving 2000 miles away and we need to hear that for ourselves. She gave me the mayor’s number. I called him myself. I spoke with him for over an hour. It was understood from what he said that we could have the horse on the property. We then made an offer on this house. If we had known the answer was ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know,’ we would have never purchased this home.”
Hughes said he had a different understanding of that conversation.
“Didn’t I tell you, or did I tell you not, that the city had an animal ordinance?” asked Hughes. “I told you that we had an ordinance in the city limits of Auburn and the fact that you did not check where your property was, is not my issue or my fault. You should have had a survey done at the PVA. There are a thousand places you can find where your property is.”
Mann’s attorney said it was obvious there was a dispute as to what was said.
“In her mind, she did reasonable due diligence in contacting the city and speaking with the mayor,” said Sowell. “We are at this point now we’ve got the ordinance here. I think if we can focus on that, as opposed to what happened before, maybe we can put that behind us. This ordinance isn’t going to affect just Mrs. Mann, like Rhonda brought up, it’s going to affect other people. So with regard to what happened prior to them moving here, that is what it is. I think that’s been well versed throughout the last two meetings.”
Sowell suggested moving on with the request.
“We didn’t come here looking to cause problems,” said Mann.
Councilman Mike Rogers said he had talked to a lot of people and had a few say this shouldn’t be happening but he had more saying it’s not going to hurt for people to have a horse on their land if they have a building and the means to take care of it.
“What difference does it make anyone else?” asked Rogers. “There are ordinances all over the state that allows things like this in big cities like Lexington, Louisville, and Owensboro. Why are we so uppity we can’t allow people to do what they want on their own land?”
Councilman Rex Evans mentioned a few years back the city had an issue with a couple wanting chickens on south Lincoln Street and the council said no.
“I’m like Rhonda, I’ve had people contact me and they do not what the ordinance changed to allow livestock,” said Evans. “You start changing it for one person and there is no reason someone can’t come in and say, ‘why not change it for me?’ We can not go and start changing ordinances for everybody coming in here and saying I did not know. “You’ve got to take the responsibility yourself. You (the Mann’s) should have gone out here and checked all the ordinances,” said Evans adding, “Manure stinks.”
Councilman Rogers replied, “The whole town stinks.”
A second reading will be held at the next council meeting in April.