I attended the recent public hearing in Gardiner regarding the keeping of small livestock, specifically goats and sheep, in high-density residential zones. The hearing brought out strong and articulate opinions and concerns on both sides. The discussion was tabled was almost two hours later.

I support the passing of a version of this ordinance, although I personally do not want to keep small livestock. I believe that with appropriate restrictions and guidelines, the ordinance will benefit the community in two primary ways:

* It will allow people to play a part in local food security by raising animals for meat and milk.

* It will be appealing to a younger crowd as they consider where to make a home.

The ordinance in question, however, could be about any topic that generates strong opinions, concerns and fear, and I do not envy the city council’s task. At the same time, I think councilors are in a unique position to send an important message to the citizens of Gardiner that will set a precedent for future decisions.

That message has to do with what it means to be a vibrant, diverse and inclusive community. It has to do with taking the time to find solutions to issues that are clearly important to people. And it has to do with striking a balance between tradition and new energy.

I ask the council and all citizens to please consider the following: Any change to the status quo has risk attached to it. Saying “no” because of the potential negative impacts, however, is also saying “no” to all the potential benefits.

Residents should check the city of Gardiner’s website for an announcement about a second public hearing regarding small-animal keeping and let their voices be heard.

Sarah Miller

West Gardiner