Council gives final OK to limit livestock in Society Hill
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
A plan to limit residents’ livestock to six chickens and two “equines” got final approval from Society Hill Town Council last week. Mayor Tommy Bradshaw said the plan was OK’d during council’s June 8 meeting by a vote of 3-2, with council members Carolyn Oliver and Chuck Baker voting no. Approval of the ordinance means that a Society Hill couple will have to remove many, perhaps most, of the farm animals on their 44 acres inside the town limits. Bradshaw said Joanne and Dwayne Duke will be given a six-month grace period to remove the animals. Council’s vote appears to end a controversy that has gone on for months in the town of 560 residents. The Dukes have been defending themselves against what Bradshaw calls a series of complaints about their livestock and their violation of a 1970s town ordinance limiting residents’ farm animals. The Dukes say the fight is about politics and Dwayne Duke’s plan to run for mayor. The new ordinance essentially limits any town resident to no more than six chickens and two “equines,” meaning horses, ponies, mules or donkeys. Each equine would require at least two acres of pastured land on a single premise. The ordinance forbids cattle, sheep, goats or swine. The Dukes run a bed-and-breakfast and they have said they use their farm animals as therapy animals for troubled children. Joanne Duke has said passage of the ordinance likely would make that impossible. In other business, Bradshaw said, council gave final approval to its budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1. The town’s $232,000 budget does not increase property taxes, he said. The budget includes funds for a full-time police officer who will work with Police Chief Michael August and funds for a new police car. Bradshaw also said the town has received word it will get $197,000 sometime in 2022 in federal funds – under the COVID-relief American Rescue Plan – that are to be used for infrastructure needs. “This is way down the road,” Bradshaw said, but he said he has already been identifying work that could be done.