Stephens Co. Commission Approves Nuisance Ordinance Update

Stephens County updates its nuisance ordinance.

On Tuesday, county commissioners unanimously adopted changes to the nuisance ordinance.

County officials said that the changes make the ordinance more detailed than what was on the books.

Stephens County Commission Chairman Dean Scarborough says he thinks the best thing about the changes is the emphasis on clearing up definitions in the ordinance.

“What we have been coming into difficulty with the court when coming in with a citation is the clarification of the definitions of what those ordinances actually represent,” said Scarborough.

The nuisance ordinance changes also include an increase in the penalties for violations of the ordinance. Under the new ordinance, the fine for violating the nuisance ordinance increases from $500 to $1000 per violation and the maximum jail time allowed under the ordinance also increases to up to six months.

During a public hearing held prior to the second reading and final vote on the nuisance ordinance, some residents, such as Denman McFarlin of Martin, expressed concerns about the ordinance as it pertains to odor and dust caused by farming.

“I am a poultry farmer and a cattle farmer,” said McFarlin. “There is odor when we spread chicken litter on pastures and hay fields and you have a lot of dust. This only lasts for a little while.”

Scarborough said that the section of the ordinance dealing with dust and odor is not changing from what has already been in place.

In addition, he said it is important to note the ordinance is designed for continuous nuisances.

“Those are not continual nuisances,” said Scarborough of dust and odor from farming. “When you have a continual nuisance with an odor, that is something that the ordinance really tries to attack. If it is a temporary nuisance, like the spreading of chicken manure on a pasture, that is a different situation and it is treated differently.”

Other individuals spoke in favor of the ordinance, but suggested having different standards for farms as opposed to residential subdivisions. Scarborough says that would have to be done through land use regulations, which the county is currently exploring through a committee that has been meeting to discuss the topic.

After approving the changes to the ordinance, county commissioners instructed staff to continue to look at the ordinance and take into account comments made during the public hearing.