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Delmont town board places ban on most animals

DELMONT — The Delmont City Council approved an ordinance Thursday that bars residents from keeping "insects, fowl and certain animals" within the city limits on residences that are 11 acres or smaller.

The council passed the ordinance by a 4-2 vote during the special meeting, held at the Delmont Community Center. Despite the vote, a group of residents is already preparing to refer that decision to a vote of the people in the small Douglas County town.

Members of the council voting in favor of the ordinance were Todd Gross, Valrae Schwaderer, Clark Will and Mike Redd. Scott Andersh and Earla Strid voted against the ordinance's passage. About 30 people were in attendance in the town that has about 230 people.

Still allowed to be owned in the city are dogs, cats, aquarium fish, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils or similar small and common household pets. The ordinance has more than 50 animals barred by the new law.

The ordinance is not official until it's published in the town's official newspaper. Once that occurs, citizens have 20 days to refer the matter to a public vote. In order for a petition to be recognized, it must contain five percent of the town's registered voters. According to Carla Hoff, who is helping to organize petitions, the city has 186 registered voters and would need 10 approved signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

The ordinance stems from a complaint about bees owned by Paul Ellis and his mother, Trish Mahoney, who moved to the community earlier this year. He owns about 20,000 bees that are located in boxes on the edge of their property, which is in the corner of Delmont's city limits. The city inspected the property and said the bees are considered a nuisance and are in violation of the city's current ordinance. Ellis said he has received his proper paperwork from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture to own bees.

That notice of violation from the city was not received until Thursday, the same day of the council's vote on the ordinance, Mahoney said, and the only written complaint was filed on Aug. 6. That was two months after the city started working on the ordinance. Ellis said he's gone out of his way to avoid being a nuisance in the community.

But others in the community who own chickens will also be impacted by the rule. Horses, cows, mules, sheep, goats, turkeys, snakes, ferrets are among the more than 50 animals barred by the new rules.

When asked by a citizen for the council's justification for setting an 11-acre threshold for allowing animals, Delmont Mayor Mae Gunnare responded, "I don't have to have a reason, ma'am."

Some residents were unhappy with the way the council had brought the ordinance through, claiming they have overused executive session privileges and have not followed professional decorum during meetings.

Gunnare frequently responded to citizen questions by refusing comment during the meeting. She did not comment on how the city plans to enforce the new law and how much it will cost citizens. She also refused to answer questions from The Daily Republic following the meeting.

A handful of residents said it was a good new rule, because the city has a problem with skunks and other rodents in the community.

"I would like to commend the City Council," said resident Ervin Bietz. "I think they've done a good job with this ordinance. I think it's time we start supporting the council of Delmont, instead of tearing it apart. It should have been done five years ago and there wouldn't have been anyone here tonight."

Ken Peters, who said he has lived in Delmont for almost 80 years, was not nearly supportive, mirroring the opinions of a majority of the residents to speak Thursday.

"This might be the stupidest thing I've ever seen," he said. "You forgot one section in here, though. You forgot how we're going to get rid of these humans we've got walking around here."