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Onaway looking at farm animal issue

December 18, 2012
Jordan Travis - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ONAWAY - In an effort to proactively address keeping farm animals in Onaway city limits, commissioners are seeking legal advice on how they can regulate the practice.

Onaway city commissioners voted to ask the city's legal counsel to look into a possible ordinance regulating farm animals within city limits, City Manager Joe Hefele said. Specifically, they asked him to review how the state's Right to Farm Act could affect any future action. The law prevents legal action against farming operations following generally accepted agricultural practices.

"After adopting the exotic animal ordinance after it became known that someone had a rather large snake, my thought was, and the commissioners agreed, it would be better to take a proactive approach rather than wait until someone was to get something that disrupted an entire neighborhood," he said.

City commissioners tried to take the same step a number of years ago, Hefele said. The motion died for lack of support, likely due in part to a vacant seat on the commission.

Any future ordinance could possibly allow a small number of rabbits or chickens kept in enclosures, although commissioners didn't discuss any limits just yet, Hefele said.

"They wanted to know what they could or couldn't do before they decide what's best," he said.

Onaway did not have a zoning ordinance in place until the 1990s, Hefele said. As a result, many residential lots have been grandfathered in, and are smaller than current building requirements allow.

"Over the course of time, people have called me about getting a cow, and they have a tiny, tiny yard, so there's a question as to where it's going to go," he said.

In other business:

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.



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