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Residents Respond To Proposed Small Animal Law

By Derek M. Otto

The regular meeting of the Village of Springville Board of Trustees was held Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, at 65 Franklin Street.

The meeting moved into a public hearing on Local Code Chapter 60 Animals.  A good number of residents attended the meeting and addressed major concerns with the law.  The proposed law will change the number of dogs to four (4) dogs and four (4) cats per household with a total number of animals not to exceed six (6) animals.  The law 60.11 cats defined that “a person who is an owner of a cat or a person who keeps, harbors or feeds a cat. The owner does not need to be a resident of the village of Springville, but the cat must be within the village limits.”  The law allows addresses the keeping and regulations for chickens in the village.

Several Residents spoke out against the confusing language of law regarding cat ownership.  Edie Offhaus of Feral Cat Focus stated that in 2009, Springville had become a leader in addressing the feral cat problems in the village.  She hoped the village would continue the TNVR (Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release) approach to the feral cat issue in Springville.  There are many volunteers in Springville that participate in the feral cat program either through Feral Cat Focus or Operation Pet.  The volunteers in Springville feed the cats after they have been returned to the neighborhood where they were captured.

Ron Larson, an Ashford resident who frequently walks in the village, stated that he had fed, and through Operation Pet, captured and neutered, several cats and still feeds them today.  Even though he is not a village resident, he feels he shouldn’t be classified as an owner.

Warren Hashhagen of Prospect Avenue also described the need to build a relationship with the cats by feeding them before they can be trapped.  He and his girlfriend, Marge Offenbach, have used Feral Cat Focus to save several cats over the last five years.  Feral Cat Focus also helps provide food to volunteers that save the feral cats. The goal of these “community cats” is to take the stray or feral cats and make sure they are healthy and cannot reproduce.

Tim Banker, a law student from the University at Buffalo Animal Law Clinic, also addressed the board, stating that the language in the law threatens the focus of Feral Cat Focus and other working in Springville to solve the cat problem.  He offered that the law clinic at UB could help in drafting the language that is fair to the parties involved.   

Chapter 60 law also defines and regulates the harboring of chickens in the village.  George Richter, a 20-year resident on Main Street in Springville, was encouraged by Springville trying to find a way for chickens to be kept. However, he noted that the restrictions on the distance of coops from property lines in the village was too limited. “Eighty percent of the property owners in Springville couldn’t make the rules work,” he said. He asked for the board to consider shorter boundaries to 20 ft., similar to what Hamburg and City of Buffalo have.

Springville would be requiring 50 ft.  Richter furthered this by stating, “You could have four Rottweilers one foot from my property, but a chicken would have to be 50 feet.”

Not everyone was in agreement with having chickens.  Gary Jennings of Myrtle Avenue expressed concerns about disease and gave the board information from the CDC. He was also concerned on how the regulations would be enforced.

Allison Duwe argued that the CDC lists far more diseases for dogs and cats than those of chickens. She also expressed concerns that the village was creating an enforcement burden on the village that she believed it couldn’t maintain.  Duwe also thought it was interesting that the law was written to exclude renters. The proposed law states, “Licenses [for chickens] shall be issued to single family residences on owner occupied properties.”  The proposals of the law also addressed the removal of the chicken waste and manure.

Hank Duwe, owner of a local commercial mulching business, expressed concern that requiring chicken manure to be collected in a bucket and stored would create more issues with smell and sanitation.  “Chicken manure is valuable, it is an important part of having chickens.” Hank explained that the “high nitrogen levels of chicken manure making a great composting material.”  He asked the board if backyard composting was allowed.  He alluded to the fact that the way the law is written you couldn’t compost chicken manure in the village if you had chickens, yet your neighbor could compost chicken manure if he didn’t have chickens.

The hearing closed with board members commenting on the process.  Terry Skelton and Rob Moriarty led the committee that drafted the current law.  After the surveys were collected, there was not a clear tip point in favor of chickens or not; it was split fifty-fifty.  If more revisions are made, another public hearing will be held before the village votes on making the changes to village code.   

Springville Fire Chief David Klenk reported on the local fire department.  Klenk did not give a number of calls for the month of August, as the Fire Department is working to find a new record keeper.  He reported that the fire department received wild land fire equipment valued at $1,200 and that a half of the cost was covered by a DEC grant.

He reported that he is working on getting 14 AED units for the village at a cost of about $21,000.

Klenk said that he had two new firefighters complete interior fire training and has order equipment for those firefighters.

Liz Melock asked the board to authorize advertising for two public hearing on Oct. 2, 2017.  One was for a block grant and the other was for changes to the permit requirements for solicitors in the village.  She asked that several budget adjustments be made for revenue for items sold at surplus.

Then she asked the board to approve the sale of a small parcel of land behind 5 East Main Street.  The Springville Center for the Arts needs the 32 x 2 ft. parcel for renovations and accessibility of the rear entrance to the Art’s Café.  The board approved the sale of the portion of property for $300.

Melock also asked the board to continue work on the Certificate of Need for ambulance service in Springville.  The current certificate runs out in January 2018.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) reported on the response to the recent storms on Sept. 4 and 5, 2017.  The response of the village DPW was well praised.  The board approved request for water and sewer easement for the new Emerling Dealership in Springville and approved Erie County and NYSDOT shared service agreements for our highway department.  Springville Police Department Officer in Charge Nick Budney, reported that Springville Police responded to 142 calls, had one DWI arrest and 25 parking tickets issued for the month of August.  The Erie County Sheriff responded to 486 calls.   Alan Chamberlain reported the Springville Fire Control Center received 150 call for the month of August.

In new business, the board approved a resolution for the WNY Southtowns Scenic Byway signage on the Rail to Trail trailhead.  The resolution allows the village to accept the sign, all cost were paid for by the WNYSSB.  Mayor Krebs also introduced a village resolution opposing the elimination of the deductibility of State and Local taxes.  The resolution will be sent to Congressman Chris Collins’ office. If it does come about, the Village is not in support of eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes from federal taxes.

Trustee Alan Chamberlain expressed concerns that there was a lot of parking on the Rail to Trail trail behind the high school during football games.  It was noted that DPW would be putting barriers up along that portion of the trail.   

Krebs announced that Mill Street/Edies Road Bridge will be closed from May 2018 to September 2018.

The next regular meeting will be held Oct. 2, 2017, 7 p.m. at 65 Franklin Street Springville.

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