Farm animals should be allowed on Decatur's remaining agricultural lands
Decatur is widely considered a global leader in agriculture. We are surrounded by some of the best farmland on the planet, one of the world’s largest agribusiness companies has its North American headquarters here, and the city hosts the Farm Progress Show, the largest agriculture tradeshow in the United States. Furthermore, urban agriculture and farm-to-table establishments provide expanded opportunities for farmers. Given Decatur’s legacy and current standing, the city should support the remaining farms in the city and allow them the flexibility necessary to be successful for generations to come. This includes allowing farm animals in agriculture districts.
FARM ANIMALS SHOULD BE ALLOWED ON FARMS
While there is not a large amount of agricultural land in Decatur (farms account for 0.6% of the city’s equalized assessed value), there are farms in Decatur. Moreover, over the past year, Decatur annexed or has proposed to annex additional agricultural land (equalized assessed value of farms increased 11.9% last year). In response to the annexations, the city council recognized that many common practices taking place in agricultural areas of the city, may be different than those taking place in residential, commercial, and industrial areas. Thus, the city is rightly proposing an “Agriculture District” that more formally defines the types of activities that can take place within the city limits.
While I am supportive of a new Agriculture District, the new zone should allow farm animals. However, according to the proposed changes to Chapter 47 of the city code, horses will be allowed, but not cattle, sheep, swine, goats or any other type of animal typically found on a farm. In my view, this is not justified given that agricultural areas are large (i.e., >1 acre), Macon County has guidelines the city can use for how many farm animals of different types are allowed per acre, and farmland has been within the city of Decatur for decades.
THE CITY ALLOWS EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS TO HAVE FARM ANIMALS BUT WOULD NOT ALLOW FARMS THAT CHANGE OWNERSHIP TO HAVE THEM
While the city is proposing to allow recently annexed property to retain its farm animals, when the ownership of the property transfers to another they will not be allowed. This may impact family farms whose ownership changes from person to person within the family or when a new family wants to take over the farm.
The city council recently permitted educational institutions such as Decatur Public Schools to have farm animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas on their property. Thus, it is unclear why farm animals will not be allowed in agricultural districts. Particularly, given that the students that attend Decatur Public Schools may live in agricultural areas within the city. Ultimately, I am concerned these proposed policies may impact the next generation of farmers by unnecessarily limiting the types of farming activities they can engage in.
THE CITY COUNCIL WILL VOTE ON MONDAY, JULY 20 AT 5:30 PM
Meetings take place at the Theater located on the second floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE - An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS – If you would like to discuss this or any other issue with a city council member, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.