Downtown couple asks Steamboat to allow goats in city
January 23, 2011
Steamboat Springs — The eclectic Fielding residence at 12th and Oak streets is home to five humans, five dogs, two goats and more than 40 chickens, including about 25 fledglings.
The humans and the dogs are within city regulations for the Fieldings' plot of about one-third of an acre. The goats and chickens are not.
John Fielding is spurring an effort to change that — for the goats, anyway.
Steamboat Springs code enforcement officer Barb Wheeler confirmed last week that she's gathering information for an ordinance that would allow a limited number of goats in an increased number of city residential areas. City regulations allow as many as five goats on lots of a half-acre or larger in residential estate zones. Wheeler said her goal "is to allow less goats in more areas," through an ordinance that could enter the public city review process in spring.
John and Holly Fielding cite numerous benefits of the animals, including their milk and the therapeutic advantages for their two adopted children, Justin, 8, and Joey, 10. Holly is lactose intolerant but can drink goats' milk.
John said health is the best benefit.
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"The ability to produce one's own food is not simply an economic advantage nor a resourcefulness advantage, but the food that one is able to produce and consume in its unprocessed condition is far, far healthier — it's the living food aspect," Fielding said, citing enzymes found in raw goats' milk, which can't be bought at Colorado grocery stores.
Wheeler said a couple of other residents also have inquired about goat regulations, causing her to dig into some research.
"I'm learning all kinds of things about goats. They're amazing, they really are," Wheeler said. "The biggest question that is coming up … is fencing, because they are notorious for getting out."
John and Holly Fielding appear to have that issue handled. Fenced enclosures in their backyard lead to the plastic-covered, greenhouse-style domain of Ripple and Caprecious, two female goats that share space with about 25 fledgling hens, not yet able to lay eggs. Caprecious' name is a blend of "precious" and "capricious," references to the goat's personality.
"This is the chickens' winter range, right here. And the goats' winter range," Fielding said last week, as the animals roamed and snacked inside the enclosure that's familiar to passers-by on Oak Street.
A few feet away in the Fieldings' yard is a chicken coop with 23 laying hens and a doghouse that's home to Angel, a Great Pyrenees who watches over the miniature Old Town farm.
City law allows as many as five hens in some residential districts, after the Steamboat Springs City Council approval in December 2009.
"We get about a dozen eggs a day, and we eat about a dozen eggs a day," Fielding said. "Two growing boys, you know?"
City planner Jason Peasley said a permit process is required for six or more hens. Fielding said he hasn't applied for that permit but knows of "quite a few people around town" with more than five hens.
"If Barb (Wheeler) decides the city has to do something about it, then she'll send me a letter," he said.
Fielding received a similar letter from city staff about a year ago, informing him the goats were not compliant with city regulations. Wheeler said that letter came after a complaint from a Fairview resident who faced goat restrictions after that neighborhood was annexed into the city.
"I agree with him — it's not fair," Fielding said. "He should have his goats back."
So, rather than conform to existing regulations, Fielding began working with city staff to change them. Wheeler said she's had no complaints about the goats from Fielding's neighbors and has no plans for enforcement.
"I'm not going to do anything about it right now," she said.
Dogs and fences
Cynthia Cantele has 12 goats at her state-registered "C" Goats Dairy off Routt County Road 14 in the Blacktail Mountain area.
She said the animals have varied uses, including weed control, carrying loads on wilderness trips, and providing meat, milk and fiber.
"They serve a purpose, whether it be meat, psychology or friendship," she said.
Cantele said a revised city ordinance could be a benefit to children in 4-H programs, who could take care of goats at their homes for a 4-H project. But significant care would be needed, she said.
"My concern is fencing and other dogs. … It's what the dogs are going to do to the goats," Cantele said. "If people have (goats) tethered, they're just like meat hanging on a string. … That's where you'd have to be a responsible pet owner and take provisions for your goat."
Fielding said he bought his family's Old Town property in 2002 and has had goats there for about five years. More could be on the way around May 1, when Caprecious is due.
"We're expecting kids," John Fielding said.
He praised the efforts of city planning staff in working through the process so far.
"They have been extremely helpful and forthcoming to make reasonable accommodation and to go forward with the work of creating a new, more appropriate ordinance."