Thursday, March 1, 2012

Eugene, Ore., bans plastic bags; may allow goats in yards

Plastic bags in Eugene, Ore., may be discouraged. Small goats may be encouraged.

Those were the messages sent by the City Council on Monday night as it expressed support for a potential ban on plastic grocery bags and interest in making it easier for residents to have miniature goats inside city limits.
Councilors voted 7-0 directing city staff to draft an ordinance that would ban single- use plastic bags at all of the city’s retailers. City Councilor Mike Clark was absent.
A plastic bag ban proposal is to come back to councilors before they take their summer break in late July.
City Councilor Alan Zelenka, who presented the proposal, said many of the estimated 67 million plastic bags used in Eugene annually end up as litter and in the ocean, where they pollute the sea and kill marine life.
The council took up the topic of goats as part of the city’s look at modifying land use codes to encourage more backyard farming so residents can become more food self-sufficient.
The city’s present farm animal rules allow goats only on agriculturally zoned land or on residential lots of about a half-acre or larger. City Manager Jon Ruiz on Monday said he would prefer that proposals to accommodate more backyard farming be postponed until they can come out of Envision Eugene, the city’s ongoing long-range growth planning effort.
But Brown, eager to get something passed by the council as soon as possible, urged his colleagues to approve a proposal that would allow residents to have up to three miniature goats if they have at least 400 square feet of open space on their properties.
After some discussion, Ruiz said such a proposal could be presented for council consideration in late summer.
Councilor George Poling, contending that the issue was being rushed, was the sole councilor to vote against pursuing that timetable.
Poling said residents may have good reasons to have miniature goats, such as for their milk.
But he said the city would have to be prepared to handle complaints if it allows goat farming to be more widespread than it is today.
He noted that animal control officers can’t keep up with the complaints about barking dogs. “We’re having problems as it is right now,” he said.
Councilor Chris Pryor said some people would keep pygmy goats for pets, not necessarily as livestock.
City officials will have to be careful drafting new regulations so the addition of farm animals in residential neighborhoods do not create quality-of-life conflicts among residents, Pryor said.
“To what degree does the city want to facilitate full-scale farming in residential neighborhoods?” he asked.

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