A proposed ordinance allowing Sonora residents to raise livestock on their property cleared a hurdle Monday night when it was approved by the Sonora Planning Commission, after nearly a year of debate.
Commissioners unanimously voted to recommend the Sonora City Council amend the city's General Plan 2020 and adopt the ordinance that would allow keeping a limited number and certain types of backyard farm animals within city limits depending on parcel size.
"I think we pretty much beat this one to death," said Community Development Director Rachelle Kellogg at the start of the public hearing.
The proposed ordinance follows requests last year by several residents. Current municipal codes forbid livestock keeping of any form in residential zones.
Commissioners directed city staff at an October meeting last year to research similar ordinances passed by other cities and determine the best provisions for one pertaining to Sonora.
In November, city staff was told to begin drafting the ordinance, keeping in mind requirements pertaining to parcel size, setbacks and enforcement, should nuisances arise.
"We were a little bit worried about how tight the situation would be," said Chairman Chris Garnin of early discussions. "I think it's safe to say we're not here to encourage livestock keeping in the city limits, we're just spelling the rules out for allowing it."
Under the proposed ordinance, city residents could keep a limited amount of livestock depending on both the acreage of their parcels and the size of the animals.
For example, residents of parcels under a half-acre in size would be allowed to keep a maximum of three small, non-hoofed animals such as chickens and rabbits. Residents on parcels from a half-acre to 0.74 acres would be allowed up to six of the same types of animals.
Parcels from 0.75 to 0.99 acre in size could have up to nine small, non-hoofed animals, and all parcels one acre or larger could have 12 per acre with a limit of 24 total.
Rules of livestock keeping are also outlined and would be enforced by the Sonora Police Department. A provision requires the parcel owner to pay for any costs the city incurs should it have to confiscate animals.
"Most of this is going to be complaint-driven," Kellogg said, adding that the city doesn't have a designated livestock enforcement unit.
Slaughtering would have to occur indoors, and any meat produced could not be sold for commercial purposes. Eggs could be sold, but only from the parcel where they're produced.
The ordinance forbids roosters because of noise concerns.
After approving the ordinance, Commissioner John Richardson asked why the support for the ordinance had seemingly dwindled since it was first announced. About a half-dozen people showed up at both of the initial meetings last year to voice either support or concern.
Amy Augustine, a city planning consultant, said at least one of the early supporters had signed up to receive notifications regarding the ordinance, which had been sent out prior to Monday's meeting, but no one showed up.
Also at Monday's meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a conditional use permit for Vanessa and Raymond Roy, who are planning to open the House of Soup restaurant and pool hall at 185 S. Washington St.
The permit approves the payment of $3,000 by the owners for two "in-lieu parking spaces." The number of seats in the restaurant, which is not to exceed 60, with an additional 40 for special events, required the extra parking spaces, but there is no room to develop them.
Those in-lieu parking space fees are deposited into a city fund designated for acquiring more parking in the downtown area, Kellogg explained.
The payment had to be made before an occupancy permit could be issued. Raymond Roy said they expect to have the business up and running within about a month.