The Herndon Town Council rejected a proposal Tuesday that would have allowed residents to keep miniature goats in residential neighborhoods.
Virginia Avenue resident Kathe Barsotti, who already owns two goats, has been advocating for the proposal.
She said she was not aware that goats weren’t permitted in the town when she obtained them. Instead of making her get rid of them right away, town zoning officials allowed Barsotti to keep the animals as she tried to get the law changed over the last six months.
In an email after the meeting, Barsotti said she would be seeking a way to appeal the decision or get the Town Council to reconsider the issue.
The proposed ordinance had the backing of the Herndon Planning Commission and a handful of supporters who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing.
Resident Colleen Ward said she is not interested in keeping goats herself, but she would welcome the opportunity to live next to someone who did.
“As Herndon modernizes, they always do it with a nod to the hometown,” she said. “It’s really coming back to a much simpler place and simpler time.”
Urban agriculture is increasingly popular, supporters of the goat ordinance said, as more and more people around the country plant gardens and keep animals like chickens and goats, even on small lots. Barsotti shared a number of examples of livestock ordinances from other suburban and urban areas.
Herndon currently allows residents to keep one pig as a pet, as well as one hen. Town officials are also in the midst of reviewing the chicken ordinance, also prompted by Barsotti, because chickens are flock animals and it is not typical to own just one chicken.
Fairfax County only allows livestock on lots 2 acres or larger.
However, Town Council members said they put more stock in the opinions of the four Virginia Avenue residents who came out to oppose the proposal. Barsotti’s neighbors were the only people at the hearing to speak in opposition.
“We are vehemently opposed to allowing goats in our neighborhood,” said Virginia Avenue resident Mary Shenk.
The opponents did not list out their specific concerns about living next to goats, but indicated that they were unhappy with Barsotti and that they did not want to live next to the animals. One neighbor expressed concern for their welfare.
Even though there were more supporters than opponents, Councilman Charlie Waddell said, “I think it’s wrong to allow just a headcount to trump those neighbors that live next door and have to deal with it.”
Waddell and other council members expressed concern about allowing goats on a lot as small as 10,000 square feet, the fact that owners would have to travel to western Loudoun County to get veterinary care and that the use was proposed to be allowed without public input on individual cases. The proposal would have required town staff to issue a permit, but it would not have required a public hearing.
“They belong on a farm,” said Councilman Dave Kirby. “They don’t belong on a 10,000 square foot, quarter-acre lot with a house and sheds and a deck in back.”
Councilwomen Sheila Olem and Connie Hutchison were the only council members to support the ordinance, seeking more time to work out some of the concerns other council members had.