After months of virtual meetings only due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, Wellston City Council opened the floor to the public for the group’s Thursday, April 1 meeting.

West Broadway Street resident Randy Shaw was the one and only member of the public to address Council Thursday night. He was present to discuss the potential use of an adjoining property (located behind his home), which belongs to Dave’s Custom Butchering, Inc. After living at that location for 16 years, Shaw told Council this is the first time he has experienced any sort of issue. 

“Occasionally when they [process] hogs on Mondays, you get a little whiff, but other than that, I’ve had no problems,” he stated. 

Shaw explained the issue first began in 2020, when the business’s owner was having his land surveyed. Upon asking the business owner what his plans were, Shaw was reportedly told that he simply wanted to see exactly what land he owned, and that he wanted to install a small holding pen to help prevent cows from escaping overnight. 

“Then, last month, I realized he had fenced in the entire 10-acre property,” Shaw continued. “That’s a bit much for a holding pen.”

When he asked the individual installing the fence what was happening, Shaw was reportedly told that the property/business owner was putting in a feed lot for “a herd of cattle,” and that the fence was electric, though it was not and has not been charged. Aside from disagreeing with the survey itself, Shaw told Council he believes an electric fence in the City is a danger and a liability. 

“The idea of an electric fence inside the city limits is one issue in itself,” he stated. “There are small children in the neighborhood, and he’s fenced in along that trailer park on [State Route] 93 where a gaggle of little kids live. An electric fence may not kill you, but it will certainly hurt you.”

Shaw added that the property in question is zoned as residential via the Jackson County Auditor’s office, and as industrial per the City. He asked Council why there is a discrepancy, and when and why the zoning classification was changed. Shaw then shifted his focus to Wellston’s codified ordinances. 

“There is no city ordinance as I understand it concerning the prevention of hooved livestock inside city limits,” he explained. “I’ve read every ordinance I could scrounge up and, without question, they’re a mess. So, technically, the City could graze cattle on Memorial Square if they chose to, or anyone else could in their front yard.”

Shaw opined that any new legislation prohibiting hooved livestock could include a stipulation for any 4-H projects adolescents may have in town. 

He went on to say the only ordinance regarding livestock inside the corporation limits talks about – among other things – the loss of use or detriment to an adjoining property, and noxious odors.The latter topic, Shaw said, is quite subjective. 

“Odor is kind of an ambiguous statement,” he said. “It could stink so bad it makes my eyes water, but somebody else could walk up and say, ‘smells good to me,’ and I’ve have no recourse whatsoever.” 

The city ordinance defining industry, Shaw stated, “protects the integrity of adjoining residential properties.” Another section, he continued, says industrial structures have to be at a minimum of 150 feet from an adjoining residential property. Shaw told Council they would have to determine whether or not a fence is considered a “structure,” adding that a section of the slaughterhouse’s fence is only 17 feet from his pool deck.

In general, Shaw asked Council to consider ordinances addressing the livestock and electric-fence issues, and to look into having the section of fence near his pool moved back 133 feet. 

Mayor Charlie Hudson agreed with Shaw’s comments about the City’s codified ordinances, stating he and others are addressing the issues as they arise. 

“He is correct, there are a lot of ordinances that are conflicting and are open to interpretation, and we do need to clean those up,” he said. He also said the best way to solve this issue would be to bring all parties together to discuss the matter, and have a committee make a recommendation to Council. 

Anthony Brenner, who was recently appointed Service/Safety Director (effective April 5), requested the issue be sent to the Planning Committee. 

In an effort to explain the situation a bit more, Code Enforcement Director Ryan Pelletier took the floor. 

“Everything Mr. Shaw said was correct; I don’t dispute anything he said,” Pelletier stated. 

He went on to say that he typically works with sections 153 and 90 (land use and nuisance law), while one of the ordinances Shaw pointed to falls under section 94 (streets and sidewalks). 

Pelletier said section 153.393 (D) states, “Prohibited fences in any residential district – no person shall erect or maintain any fence or wall charged with an electrical current.” He pointed out that the property in question is zoned as industrial, therefore this section does not apply. Mayor Hudson added that, per Ohio’s home-rule law, the City’s zoning map supersedes that of the county. 

Shaw’s research, Pelletier continued, uncovered an ordinance under section 94.05 that states, “No person shall erect or maintain any fence charged with an electrical current.”

“I did not know that existed,” he said. “So, we have two ordinances that I wouldn’t say work against each other, they are just confusing.” 

He likewise told Council to bear in mind that, though the City would likely not allow a slaughterhouse to develop inside city limits in 2021, this particular business has been present since before Wellston became a municipality to begin with. 

“Therefore, we’ve kind of put them in this situation,” Pelletier said. 

Near the end of Thursday night’s discussion, Pelletier said the fence in question is not electrically charged, and that it would remain that way until the issue is brought to resolution.