Waxhaw commissioners get update
By the end of July, the Waxhaw town council could have an animal ordinance to vote on. Town Manager Michael McLaurin gave commissioners an update on the proposed animal control ordinance, which has been under review by a special committee that was formed last March to address many of the objections that arose from the first draft. The committee members; Police Chief Eiss, Judy Coates, Amy Ferguson and McLaurin have met three times.
“The committee did a lot of work on the restraint of animals and how that works. Another area of considerable debate in the community is the limit to the number of dogs.” Mclaurin said, “Originally the committee proposed a maximum of seven dogs per acre, but the police had concerns about that.” Instead, McLaurin said, the group settled on a maximum of five animals per acre. McLaurin related that the debate between the committee and staff was spirited at times but always professional.
The committee rewrote and combined sections of the ordinance, editing out extraneous detail and simplifying terms. Rather than specify license fee in the ordinance, the committee decided to require all dogs and cats to licensed by the town on an annual or multi-year basis with the licensing fee incorporated into the Town’s annual fee structure and authorized by Board of Commissioners.
Separate fee structures for spayed and neutered animals, as well as incentives for micro-chipping maybe included at any time.
Revisions to the draft ordinance included a requirement for physical restraint by means of a fencing, pens or leash. The minimum outdoor enclosure for each animal is a 10 foot by 10 foot pen.
“The way we have it, subject to your [the boards] revision is that beginning in October 2011, it will be illegal to chain or tether a dog.” McLaurin said, “We had a lot of discussion about whether people could afford fences. We’ve added language about leaving a dog trapped in a car, too.”
The last thing I wanted to point out is that the police are interested in keeping the fees high, we left them in there [in the ordinance]” McLaurin said, “I am waiting for some final comments from committee members and I expect to have a final version in 30 days for you to review and possibility hold a public hearing.”
The process to create an ordinance was started after a series of incidents involving pit bulls earlier this year. The first involved a five year old girl, Makayla Woodard, who was attacked by pit bulls in her front yard and later died.
Another incident happened March 22, with officers responding to a call on Jackson Avenue. Two pit bulls came off Peyton Court and started wandering, before arriving at the Jackson Avenue home and killing two other dogs. Both of the pit bulls were seized. Language in both the current and proposed ordinances calls for any dog declared dangerous to be removed from town. The owner doesn’t have to get rid of the animal, but they can’t bring them back to Waxhaw.
Other business from the meeting
In other business, Waxhaw Commissioners approved a conditional rezoning petition to demolish and construct an new building at 203 N. Broome Street. Last October, the building was ravaged by fire and since the damage exceeded 60 percent of the tax value, the owners were required to meet the town’s current zoning regulations. The gas station and convenience store will remain as tenants, but other displaced tenants like the barber shop have not committed at this time. The new 5,662 sq. ft building will have a dark red brick and light gray facade.
Commissioners approved a text amendment that clarifies property owner notification for zoning violations. The language revision also removes reference to civil penalties calling them fines instead. The distinction means that Waxhaw can collect fines and keep them in their own coffers, as opposed a fee mechanism labeled civil penalties, which according to state statute, must be turned over school system. The town expects about $4000 fine revenue next year.
Waxhaw agreed to participate in the Carolina Tread Trail project joining a majority of neighboring towns and Union County in the regional trail and green-way system encompassing 15 counties and 2.3 million people. More information is available at www.carolinathreadtrail.org.
Town Manager Mike McLaurin asked the board to approve a motion to ask Union County to return control of the Waxhaw water tower and property to the town as an historical treasure. Commissioners approved unanimously.