Madison County leaders made it easier June 1 for property owners with small lots to have chickens, goats or sheep — provided they follow certain guidelines.

The county commissioners voted 3-1 — with John Pethel providing the lone “No” — to approve two ordinance changes regarding animals. The first will allow people in residential areas to have up to six chickens, so long as they are not free-range, but kept in a closed coop. No roosters or crowing hens are allowed. There must be a minimum of four square feet of floor space for each chicken. There must be appropriate ventilation and disposal of waste. The shelter should be aesthetically consistent with the residence and be at least 50 feet from property lines.

Planning board chairman Wayne Douglas said he keeps chickens and has found the hobby quite expensive, adding that he doesn’t expect many people to run right out and buy a $300 chicken coop for eggs that could be purchased cheaper at a store.

“We eat expensive eggs,” said Douglas, talking about his home-grown eggs. “It’s expensive and time consuming.”

But Douglas said the guidelines provide homeowners the freedom to pursue such an interest if they want, particularly kids interested in agriculture.

The board also approved a measure allowing goats and sheep to be kept on tracts of 1.5 acres or more. Up to four goats or sheep — or a combination of the two — can be kept on such properties, along with any animal born to those animals for a period up to six months. The goat or sheep must be kept in a rear yard in a fenced-in area. Like chickens, those animals must also be kept at least 50 feet from property lines.

In a separate matter, the board voted to provide more lenience for residents wanting to operate businesses in residential units by removing a requirement that rural home occupations have a minimum lot size of five acres. The person operating a business on the lot must live at the residence and use and existing driveway for the business.

The board also agreed to approve a zoning application refund policy proposed by the planning commission, which recommended that a zoning applicant be allowed to withdraw a request at any time, but they’ll only get their money back if they do so prior to a zoning board meeting.

Anyone needing more information about county zoning matters can call the planning office at 706-795-6345.

GYM PURCHASE

Also June 1, the board heard from BOC chairman Anthony Dove, who said county school board has agreed to sell the old gym behind Madison County Memorial Park and next to the county government complex for $125,000. However, a final contract has not been drawn. So, the board tabled any vote until the paperwork is complete. The old gym will provide more space for the county, perhaps for recreation services. And the school system will use the money from the purchase to help cover the cost of a new facility for the wrestling program, which has used the old gym.

ELECTION PREPARATIONS

In another matter, the board agreed to spend just over $3,000 to have 74 old polling machines evaluated. Tracy Dean, chairperson of the Madison County Board of Elections and Registration, urged the board to consider the measure to help lessen the risk of election problems in 2016. The board voted 4-0 in favor of the inspections.

PEANUT SALES

Dove reported that a man selling peanuts and produce on county property in Danielsville has asked the county for written permission to continue selling the goods. Dove said the city of Danielsville requires all roadside sellers to get a license from the city before selling items. They must also get permission from property owners. Dove said there had not been any issue with the man selling peanuts, but he said the county granting written permission for one seller, and not others, would be problematic. He said he didn’t feel the county could provide anyone with written permission to sell on county property — unless all got that permission. County attorney Mike Pruett agreed with Dove’s assessment.

“I’d be pretty uncomfortable if the board just said OK,” said Pruett.

EMS EQUIPMENT

The board agreed Monday to seek a grant for $70,590 grant for three cardiac monitors for EMS. That will require a 10-percent matching contribution — $7,059 — to get the equipment.

“Any time we can turn $7,000 into $70,000, I’m happy,” said commissioner Stanley Thomas.

OTHER BUSINESS

The commissioners agreed 4-0 to match Oglethorpe County’s $6,000 annual contribution for a two-county extension service family and consumer science agent, who will split time equally between the counties.

The board heard from Dove, who asked the group to consider establishing a department head for the planning and zoning office, a duty the BOC chairman has held for several months. Planning commission chairman Douglas said that he is available to handle several hours of that duty per week. But the board took no vote on the matter Monday, agreeing to consider the issue again during upcoming 2016 budget meetings.

Benjamin Goss and Bennie Tuggle of Kingston Greens informed the board that a paving project in the subdivision remains halfway completed and that potholes and drainage gutters with sediment buildup need attention.

The board agreed to continue budgeting the same amount annually for the Madison County Department of Family and Children’s Services and also approved the re-appointment of John Reed to the DFCS board.

The BOC opened the meeting with a moment of silence for Mary Elrod and Willie Jo Hix, who both passed away last week.

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