By Paul Koenig
Staff Writer

GARDINER — There is still hope for residents wanting to raise small livestock in residential areas, but new city rules allowing that probably will be more restrictive than previously proposed.

City councilors voted to revisit the issue at their next meeting in two weeks, after listening to a dozen members of the public during Wednesday night’s hearing on the proposed ordinance.

The proposal before the council would allow the raising of sheep and goats weighing 100 pounds or less in all residential zones, with minimum setbacks from neighbors and 4,000 square feet required for each animal.

The Ordinance Review Committee spent more than four months researching the issue and crafting the proposal, which the council first discussed two weeks ago.

Councilors could have killed the issue by voting the proposal down, but support for some type of ordinance change allowing more residents to raise livestock was enough to keep it alive.

Councilor Robert Logan Johnston made the motion to table the proposal to allow for more discussion about what additional restrictions might be needed.

“I’m passionately in favor of people taking control of what they eat,” Johnston said, “but I’m also passionate about our community and how it appears.”

He said he wants to let more people raise animals for food if that’s something they care about, but it should be closely monitored. Councilor Patricia Hart said she agreed with that.

After the meeting, Johnston said he thinks minimum lot sizes are needed to reduce the number of properties where raising goats and sheep would be permitted in residential zones.

Councilors Scott Williams and Phil Hart said they don’t support the ordinance.

“I just don’t think they belong in high-density residential,” Williams said.

Williams said he hasn’t been around farm animals much, but the ones he’s seen “have been completely disgusting.”

Phil Hart said he’s most concerned about the animals bothering neighbors. He said people living in high-density residential areas will have several neighbors in close proximity, so more land is needed for livestock to avoid creating nuisances for others.

Mayor Thomas Harnett said he doesn’t support the ordinance draft as proposed, but he would favor continuing to look at the issue.

Some members of the public encouraged councilors to think about whether allowing livestock in residential zones is appropriate at all.

“I don’t want to see anything happen that might affect the type of life we have here in Gardiner,” said Dorothy Washburne, of Water Street. “Regardless of what some have said, I do believe if you allow livestock, that will impact properties that are surrounding that particular area that has livestock.”

Alex Rosenberg and Veronique Vindette, who live on Brunswick Avenue in Gardiner, spoke in favor of allowing livestock in residential areas because they want to be able to raise sheep.

Vindette said they want to keep sheep to mow their lawn and to have meat and wool at the end of the season.

Some residents spoke out with worries about livestock decreasing neighboring property values, but Rosenberg said an ordinance change could attract more residents who care about sustainable living and increasing property values.

John Burgess, a member of the committee that originally drafted the proposal, didn’t express an opinion for or against it. Instead, he spoke of the work the committee members did and outlined the issues they faced.

“We worked like heck on putting this together, considering everybody, and I wouldn’t relish being in your spot right now,” he told the council.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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