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County commissioners table animal carcass ordinance until February

SALISBURY — After discussing a proposed ordinance that would outlaw feeding large animal carcasses to domestic animals in public, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday night tabled the discussion to a meeting in February.

The decision to pause the discussion came after commissioners realized they couldn’t vote on the ordinance without all five members present. Commissioner Mike Caskey was not present due to a work-related matter.

The potential new ordinance, which was proposed by Animal Services Director Bob Pendergrass, would make it “unlawful to intentionally feed whole large animal carcasses to domesticated animals in public view.” The proposed new rule stems from several complaints both Pendergrass and Commissioner Craig Pierce received from citizens who live in the neighborhood where the feeding occurred.

“When people are taking deer carcasses and feeding several dogs in a neighborhood in the front yard, I don’t think it’s sanitary to start with,” Pierce said. “That’s the intent (of the ordinance), to prevent that type of feeding.”

Pierce said that the homeowner is feeding the chopped up deer carcasses to more than a dozen dogs in plain view of neighbors. The neighborhood where the incident occurred is not within Salisbury limits.

Animal Services investigated, Pendergrass said, but couldn’t take action because the practice isn’t currently prohibited by county law. Pierce and Pendergrass met with five concerned residents who live near where the feeding occurred to hear their complaints and better understand the situation.

Pierce said the proposed ordinance isn’t designed to “dictate what people can and can’t do,” but is to give the county a way to address this specific situation in the future.

“Like we said time and time again, you need to be good neighbors,” Pierce said. “Feeding carcasses to dogs in the front yard in your neighborhood while the buzzards stay in the tree waiting for them to get done with it is just not what I think we want to have as good neighbors in Rowan County.”

Pierce asked Pendergrass during the meeting whether he’d contacted the property owner, who Pierce said is not the same person who is living in the residence and feeding the carcasses to their dogs. Pendergrass said he had not.

While no public comment was made during the meeting, the county did receive an email from David Childers of Blackwelder Road. Childers expressed his disapproval of the proposed ordinance and said the regulation is “unnecessary, does not fall within the state goals of Rowan County municipal code regulating animals and would ultimately result in wasted tax dollars due to the inadequate definitions and high burden of proof established by the wording.”

Commissioner Judy Klusman also expressed concern with how the county would define a “large” animal carcass.

Commissioners discussed whether or not they would include a fine for the potential ordinance, but reached no conclusion during the meeting. Pierce said he didn’t want to attach a monetary penalty to the ordinance.

The county’s code of ordinances does list fines for several animal-related offenses, most of which start off at $25 and double with each additional offense.

Pierce said that he expects more public comment about the issue the next time it is on the commissioners’ agenda in February.

In other meeting business:

● The Board of Commissioners heard a presentation from Assistant Manager Randy Cress about the county’s plan to implement suggestions made by the Matrix consulting firm about improving the permitting processes. Matrix studied the county’s current permitting structure in the spring and delivered its findings and suggestions to commissioners in September.

The county’s plan to implement those suggestions includes a list of items, some of which have already been completed and others that won’t be put in place until 2023. Many of the action items on the plan include bolstering the county’s online permitting interface system.

In general, the implementation plan will seek to modernize and improve the county’s permitting process for prospective developers and current residents.

“Having a consistent, predictable, efficient process is so important to developers, whether it’s a residential or a large commercial,” Chairman Greg Edds said. “We certainly have wonderful people working in each department, but when you’re relying on each department to connect the next department, it doesn’t always work well under the best circumstances.”

● Commissioners scheduled a public hearing for Feb. 1 to consider an incentive request from the Rowan County Economic Development Commission for “Project Popcorn.”

The company behind the potential project is a manufacturer that is considering Rowan County for its new facility. Preliminary numbers show the company would invest approximately $125.7 million in new construction and equipment and would create 1,200 jobs over the next three years.

Rowan EDC Vice President Scott Shelton will provide commissioners more detailed information regarding the incentive request in the coming weeks.

● Finance Director Jim Howden presented commissioners with an update on the county’s finances.

Both the county’s expenditures and revenues were up in December of 2021 compared to December of 2020, which is largely due to the county receiving and then spending more than $5 million from the federal government through the CARES Act.

● The county entered a closed session to consider real estate negotiations.

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