LORDSTOWN - Several village residents say they are being encroached upon by neighbors' cows. They won at least a temporary victory.
The residents aired their concerns last week at a zoning board hearing in an attempt to prevent John and Tina Thompson from being granted a variance that would allow the couple's cows to roam less than 200 feet from their homes. The pasture fence stands less than 50 feet from several homes surrounding the Thompson property.
The zoning board gave the couple 30 days to either move a portion of the fence or place an interior fence, so the cows will not be any closer than 200 feet from a neighbor's house.
They also must get a new building permit and begin construction for a family house or tear down the new barn and dog house.
The couple purchased 38 acres at 6174 Highland Ave. with the stated intention of building a house as well as accessory buildings for their cows and dogs. They obtained six-month building permits for the three buildings in July 2012.
A barn, dog house and the fence were built, and cows moved in. According to village zoning regulations, the two accessory buildings should not have been built without the home being on the property. But no house has been built, and the building permit has expired.
Realtor Joseph Dorma, representing the Thompsons, said the couple intends to begin building the house this summer. Five cows have been on the property for four months, he said.
Neighbor Douglas King countered, "There are six, not five, cows and they've been there since December. They are not doing what they are supposed to do. They are getting away with everything."
Dorma initially told zoning board members the couple was unaware of the village's zoning regulations about keeping livestock at least 200 feet away from neighboring homes. Board member John McCarthy, however, said the village's zoning commissioner, Dave Harrison, had earlier questioned Tina Thompson about the regulations and she told him they knew all the village's requirements.
Arno Hill, the village's mayor, said he was mayor when the zoning requirement not allowing livestock being any closer than 200 feet from households passed. It was done to protect neighbors from the smell, flies and other concerns associated with raising livestock.
Donna Schrader, who owns property next to the Thompson land, says the company that placed the fence around the property tore down a legal fence on her property as well as cut trees and shrubs that surrounded her property.
Gerald Denno, whose property also borders the Thompson's land, says the fence is less than 50 feet away from his house. Denno's property is surrounded on two sides by the fence.
"The fence is electrified and my son plays near it," Denno said. "It is a danger."
Dorma told the board that moving the fence away from the homes would be an economic burden. "They do not want to move the cows," Dorma said.
He asked the board what the couple should do and how long they would have to do the work.
Village solicitor Paul Dutton recommended the zoning board not immediately address the zoning variance issue because the couple has several zoning violations that must first be addressed, including the building of the barn and dog house without having a house started.