By Valerie Werkmeister
Members of the Cynthiana Town Council found themselves embroiled in a controversy with a local resident over the legalities of keeping a horse, pony and a goat at her residence. Tara Davis, who resides on Main Street in Cynthiana had appeared with her husband, Rick, at last month’s council meeting regarding a nuisance complaint regarding having the animals within town limits. The Davis’ contended that they contacted both the town hall and Mindy Bourne of the Posey County Area Plan Commission to check if any local ordinances existed prior to the animals’ being brought to the property.
Tara, along with a neighbor friend only identified as Courtney, contended that she was informed there were no ordinances in place concerning having the animals on the property. The Davis’ contend the animals provide therapeutic benefits to help the Davis’ son, who has cerebral palsy and is deaf.
During a meeting on July 10, council members produced ordinance # 1992-11-4, concerning animals that are prohibited within the town. Council president Steve Cox admitted there were a few problems with the filing system at the Town Hall and they were unable to locate the ordinance until recently.
The ordinance states that a horse may only be kept within the town limits if the custodian has a minimum of one-acre of fenced land per horse. Council members contend that the Davis’ property does not meet these criteria and is therefore, in violation of the ordinance.
Tara then argued that she had contacted a lawyer who informed her that because the animals are for therapeutic uses, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) would “trump any other ordinance.”
Cynthiana’s attorney, Jeff Ahlers argued that there are no Indiana laws that states therapeutic animals would override those by town ordinance. He also stated that he had spoken with her lawyer earlier that day, who informed Ahlers he had not yet been retained by the Davis’. Tara proceeded to say that she would be retaining his services the following day.
“We’re not trying to pick on her; it was brought to our attention. Someone complained,” council member Jim Sheets clarified.
Tara reminded the council that she had letters of support from her neighbors. However, Sheets called on John Vogt, who stated his back door was within 40 feet of the barn area and the smell from the manure piles was a nuisance.
Ahlers stated the town’s nuisance ordinance would cover the problems with manure piles.
Tara claimed that she removed the manure piles several times a day and also dumped the manure on Courtney’s garden.
Council members still found the Davis’ to be in violation of the ordinance and posed the maximum fine of $50 per day plus attorney’s fees until the matter could be cleared up in court.
“I am sympathetic with your situation, but the law is the law,” Cox stated.
Tara explained how much her son has progressed within the three months the animals have been working with him. She was concerned that if she was forced to get rid of the animals, he would regress.
Ultimately, as cooler heads prevailed, a compromise was reached. Tara agreed to remove the goat and the horse from the property. She would keep the pony and agreed to keep the smell from the manure piles from becoming a nuisance. All parties agreed to a 60-day trial period before returning to report on the status. The fines previously assessed were also rescinded.
In other business, town employee Jason Gee reported that he had contacted three local contractors regarding some of the storm damage various town buildings had received earlier this spring. DeWeese Construction was the only one who had responded and was in the process of producing a quote. He would bring the council the information after he receives it.
Town marshal Andy Porath informed council members he was still looking into local noise ordinances. He advised he had only received one noise complaint in the last 30 days.
Porath stated that training for Nathan Bickers is nearly complete. He hopes to have Bickers working as a part-time deputy town marshal after Labor Day.
Porath also discussed a possible ordinance regulating golf cart usage within the town. He passed out copies of Poseyville’s golf cart ordinance for review. He explained that the ordinance outlines that a registration sticker and inspection is required to ensure that the golf cart meets road standards. He added that the council may decide to exclude North Street and Evansville Street due to the volume of traffic on those streets.
He reminded the audience that the National Night Out will be held on August 7, and information about the upcoming event would be discussed in the community watch program.
The next Cynthiana Town Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 14, at 6 p.m.
By Valerie Werkmeister
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