Weddington again debates rights of property owner, public
What appeared to be a quick public hearing Monday night, Dec. 13, on Weddington’s regulation of miniature horses evolved into a familiar debate. From open burning to firearms and, now, miniature horses, Weddington’s Town Council has faced tough calls in recent months pitting personal property rights against the rights of the public.
Monday night’s particular discussion stemmed from the situation of Judy Jones, a Weddington resident who keeps four horses, including three miniature horses, on 2.48 acres on Oxford Terrace. In doing so, Jones has two too many farm animals and is violating her homeowner’s association covenants and a town ordinance requiring 5 acres for two or more horses.
When told she had to give up three of her animals, Jones, instead, asked the town board to change its ordinance. Neighbors opposed to Jones’ horses came to the meeting Monday, Dec. 13, to complain of the smell and the way Jones handles animal wastes. They also worried about sediment running off Jones’ property because the horses hooves have pounded down the soil.
To counter these complaints, Jones brought her attorney, who cited the ordinances of other counties with more lenient farm-animal ratios. The attorney also pointed to the difficulty of asking someone to give up a pet, and several neighbors, supporting Jones, said the horses are an asset to the community and help preserve Weddington’s rural character.
The debate raged on regarding the size and waste output of different types of horses, and in the end, there appeared no consensus about how much is too much where farm animals are concerned.
Throughout the meeting, Mayor Nancy Anderson redirected the focus of the discussion – stressing the proposed change affects all Weddington residents, and that the board should not simply address an isolated citation against Jones.
Board members weighed several possible changes, such as increasing the number of permitted horses from one to three and allowing two miniature horses to count as one full size. Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry even recommended leaving the ordinance alone and delegating exceptions to Town Planner Jordan Cook, who could use experts to certify safety and sanitation on a case-by-case basis.
With each proposal, a “new can or worms” or new questions arose.
In the end, the board voted unanimously to leave ordinance unchanged, leaving Jones in apparent violation.