Burke Drive residents say they're fed up with woman's farm animals; Council sets public hearing for Sept. 12
With despair in their voices, residents of three homes on Burke Drive tonight implored the Batavia City Council to do something to end the chaos being caused by several farm animals – along with five dogs and 20 cats – being kept by a neighbor woman who they claim has been abusive and unwilling to listen to their concerns.
Teresa Potrzebowski, John and Melissa Ladd, and Shannon Maute presented a united front during the public comments portion of Council’s Conference Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room – each one of them speaking of the deplorable conditions stemming from the Jill Turner residence.
The governing body, according to Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., has been dealing with this situation for 18 months. After hearing from the Burke Drive residents and sharing their opinions on the matter, Council members voted, 8-1, to hold a public hearing on Sept. 12 to consider a revision to the City Code titled “Restrictions on Animals and Fowl.”
Potrzebowski said she had to put up a 6-foot vinyl fence “just to preserve my sanity” due to the horrendous smell and the constant noise from the ducks, goats and chickens. Maute said she counted six goats, four chickens and two ducks that are kept in a 5-foot by 7-foot shed when they’re not “running wild” or inside the house with Turner and her daughter.
Both women said they have been subjected to verbal abuse, including profanity, when they have tried to speak with Turner about the animals.
“What kind of parent encourages her 11-year-old daughter to swear at everyone, giving them the middle finger and chanting (expletives)?” Maute asked. “Then dumps chicken feed all over the side and front lawn as she looks at us smiling and saying, “Here, chickens?”
Maute said that Potrzebowski has been tormented to the extent that she won’t come out of her house when Turner is home because Turner and her daughter continually harass her.
John Ladd said he lives next door to Turner, who has been “nothing but trouble and violent” for quite some time. He said she claims the animals are for therapy but that Turner spends no time with them, other than to change the water once in a while.
“I live in the city; I don’t live in the country,” he said. “I never thought I would have to deal with this – living in the city. And grandfathering her in won’t solve anything.”
Melissa Ladd said she was concerned for the welfare of the animals, noting that they are outside for hours with little or no access to water.
The “grandfathering” term used by John Ladd is in reference to proposed revisions in the City Code, as presented by the City Planning & Development Committee, that include a provision to allow property owners that have registered individual animals and/or fowl (farm animals) prior to the effective date of the amendment to keep the identified animal(s).
City Manager Rachael Tabelski asked City Council to strike that stipulation from the code revision since she doesn’t have the staff or resources to create an animal registry and to tag and track pre-existing animals.
She did say she agreed with another PDC recommendation to limit the number of hen chickens to six as long as they are penned appropriately, do not accumulate feces, cause odor or an unsightly or unsafe condition.
The gist of the “Restriction on Animals and Fowl” ordinance is that no person shall own, bring into, possess, keep, harbor or fee farm animals, cloven hoofed animals, equine or fowl, including, but not limited to, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, swine, llamas, alpacas, ducks, turkey, geese, feral cats, ponies, donkeys, mules or any other farm or wild animal within the city limits.
Council members who addressed the public speakers said they sympathized with their plight, with Paul Viele and Kathleen Briggs taking a stand against allowing any farm animals in the city.
“There shouldn’t be any chickens,” Viele said. “If you want eggs, go to the store and buy eggs.”
“This is a city ... we shouldn’t have farm animals in the city,” Briggs said. “We should write a law. You break the law, there’s consequences.”
Robert Bialkowski voted against moving the matter to a public hearing because he said it violates federal and state law pertaining to the right of handicapped citizens to have a small horse or dog for therapeutic reasons.
He said that one problem homeowner shouldn’t infringe on others.
“Let just deal with the problem,” he advised.
Bialkowski urged the residents to contact the county health department, police, fire department, dog warden and the ASPCA for assistance, mentioning that the animals would be confiscated if they’re being mistreated.
Jankowski said the city manager has spoken to animal control and “that’s where we found the missing part of our code."
“We’re unable to regulate change at this point,” Tabelski added, hopeful that next month’s public hearing bears some meaningful fruit.