Limits on livestock in Society Hill get initial OK

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

Society Hill Town Council is one vote away from limiting residents’ livestock to six chickens and two “equines” – an action that would force a Society Hill couple to remove many, perhaps most, of the farm animals on their 44 acres. The couple, Joanne and Dwayne Duke, left without comment after council voted 4-1 during its May 11 meeting to give the plan initial approval. One more “yes” vote is needed before the ordinance is adopted. The Dukes have been defending themselves for months against what Society Hill Mayor Tommy Bradshaw describes as a series of complaints about their livestock and their violation of a 1970s town ordinance limiting residents’ farm animals. The Dukes counter that the dispute is really about petty politics and Dwayne Duke’s plan to run for mayor. The conflict has led to some crowded and contentious Town Council meetings, but last week’s meeting was fairly quiet, as council – with some questions, but little argument – took its first vote on the plan. Council member Carolyn Oliver cast the only “no” vote. Oliver favored grandfathering in the existing farm animals in the town, and having the ordinance block more animals of this type. Bradshaw told council: “I’m 67 years old. I’ve lived here all my life. Never before have I seen cattle, swine, in this town (until the Dukes). I’ve never seen this before in our town. … The people of the town don’t want it. … It’s not personal about the Dukes. … We’re thinking about the long-term interests of the town.” Council members acknowledged that farm animals have not exactly been uncommon in the town’s past, but said the town of 560 people has to look to the future. “When this original (1970s) ordinance was put into place, within a mile of this very building, there were animals” and barns, said councilman Chuck Baker. The new ordinance covering farm animals in the city limits essentially would limit 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 specifically forbids cattle, sheep, goats or swine. The Dukes run a bed-and-breakfast on their land, and they have said they use their farm animals as therapy animals for troubled children. Joanne Duke has said the new ordinance likely would make that impossible. After the meeting last week, Joanne Duke said, “This (conflict) really is not about the animals.” She said she believes that some council members were not clear about what they were voting on. “There was some confusion. I don’t want to name names.” Asked what the Dukes could do to change council’s views, she said: “Maybe have an open house and have the council members come over here? They should have come to walk the property.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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