Monday night’s Auburn City Council meeting was heated at times with council members yelling at one another over horses. Not because they are pooping on the streets as seen during the Amish debacle a few years back. This time it’s over allowing them to live in the city along with goats, sheep, and cows.
A 4-2 vote by the council secured the above-listed livestock’s residence in the rural town but only if their owners own five acres or more, have adequate lodging and fencing, and care for them.
The issue came to the council table after Chalis Mann and her husband moved to Auburn and wanted to bring their horse. Mann claims she was told by Mayor Mike Hughes they could have a horse before moving here, however, Hughes remembers that conversation differently saying he told her the city had a livestock ordinance. The Mann’s and their attorney attended March’s city council meeting via zoom asking for a change in the city’s ordinance.
Most of the arguing Monday was between councilmembers Mike Rogers and Rhonda Sullivan. Rogers has taken lead on pushing the amendment through while Sullivan is concerned the change will open up a floodgate of others in the town who want to add their own choice of animals. Chickens and pigs are not allowed in.
“I want to say something before we take a vote,” said Sullivan after Rogers made a motion to pass the amendment. “I’ve had multiple people come to me and say the only reason some of y’all are going to vote yes to this, is because you are mad at the mayor. I am appalled that you would make a decision that includes the entire city because you are pissed at one person. That’s ridiculous.”
Sullivan’s words clearly upset Rogers and a yelling match ensued.
“Let me say something,” said Rogers, “You made your statement clear.”
“If you would listen to the people, this would not happen,” rebutted Sullivan adding, “And let me tell you, your election is before his (mayor Hughes), so maybe y’all need to consider that before you go around all these people that don’t want this.”
Rogers explained he did not have an agenda against anyone.
“First of all, I never made this motion because I was mad at any person. I was not mad at the mayor. I was not mad at anybody on the council. I was not mad at anyone in the city,” said Rogers. “This person called me and asked me about it. She is a citizen of Auburn. I went and looked at what she had. I researched other ordinances in other towns. Nothing is going to hurt by this lady or any other person for having an animal if they’ve got the space for it. It’s not going to change the face of the town. We have horses coming in here day and night. It’s not going to change anything except the people who have the means to have a horse or a calf if they want. Now, for the third time. I make a motion to pass this.”
Councilman Claude Tisdale seconded Roger’s motion. The mayor asked if there were any more discussion before a vote was taken. Councilwoman Peggy Thomas spoke up.
“I know a lot of people are saying you are changing this for one person,” said Thomas. “I don’t look at it that way. I don’t think it was right from the beginning. There is too much he said she said. The zoning map is from 1990. That’s ridiculous. We need an update on that. It should have been made clear, like Rex (Evans) said. That woman should have found out. Well, they went to BRADD and that zoning map wasn’t any good. They called here (city hall). Well, if they cant call here (city hall) and ask a city clerk or zoning and planning or you (mayor Hughes). If they can’t ask you (mayor Hughes) a question and expect the truth, you know, what good is it?”
Mayor Hughes told the council he had made some changes himself as to what information those who work at city hall will give out from now on concerning property lines.
“Let me tell you what is going to happen in the future,” said Hughes. “When they call city hall, we will never again answer if anyone asks us if their property is in the city limits. They need to get it surveyed. They can get it on the PVA website. There are a thousand things they can do.”
Hughes went on to say, “I told her we had a livestock ordinance. This lady had her own agenda and she worked it out for herself but I won’t take the blame for it.”
The mayor claims the city limits are “clearly mapped” and that he had sent Mrs. Mann’s realtor the map outlining it prior to purchase.
“Elizbeth Teel (city attorney) shared that map with their attorney as well, that’s when they went a different route and he (Mann’s attorney) has tried two or three other routes and that didn’t work. The only route that worked was to come directly to y’all (council) and get you to change it, and that’s what you did. I’ve kept quiet about the whole thing all this time. I haven’t said a word to anybody.”
Rogers chimed in again, this time directing his comment to the mayor.
“Just between you and me Mike, I don’t care. All I did, I looked at what other cities did. I looked around her property. I looked at other people’s property. I don’t see that it’s going to change the face of the community any. We are a farming community. We are not a tourist attraction by no means. I’m trying to let the people have a little bit of control over their property. I don’t want pigs in this town or roosters or chickens. I’m not for that, but if someone wants to raise a calf to put in the freezer, I don’t have a problem with that. If somebody wants to raise a horse, I don’t have a problem with it.”
For Sullivan, it’s what could come next.
“It’s not so much all about the animals, it’s what you’re opening up for everybody to come up here and say ‘hey, we changed this will you change that?’ ” Sullivan said.
Veering off-topic for a bit, Rogers brought up a previous council decision involving alcohol sales at events held at the city park.
“Last year in January we changed a 100-year-old ordinance so we could allow alcohol sales in the city park. How many towns, you know how many parks in Bowling Green allow alcohol?” asked Rogers.
Sullivan explained the alcohol being sold was only when adult events were being held at the park.
“We aren’t selling liquor out of the concessions stands at the ball fields,” said Sullivan.
To which Rogers replied, “I don’t give a crap. You put people’s lives in danger. You can word it the way you want, it puts kids in danger. It puts old people in danger. We are here to protect the citizens, that does not do it.”
A vote was then taken to amend the city’s livestock ordinance with Rogers, Tisdale, Steve Montgomery, and Thomas voting yes and Sullivan and Rex Evans voting no. Evans said he felt the change was “opening a pandora’s box.”