Mapleton council limits snake farm size

Daily Herald  Friday, September 22, 2006

Mapleton council limits snake farm size
NATALIE EVANS – Daily Herald

It’s time to hibernate, and some of Dan Sutherland’s pythons will be allowed to come to Mapleton to do it, though probably not enough to make his business work.

The Planning commission decided Thursday that 212 small animals are allowed. The Sutherlands, moving to the city from California to establish a snake farm, can decide on the combination of animals they bring. Dan Sutherland said the number decided on by the commission isn’t enough to run a successful business.

The decision was made in a council room so full that lucky residents who found seats first were asked to give them up for senior citizens.

Resident and local real estate agent Grace Huffaker expressed the concern of several residents.

“I say absolutely everybody’s property within a half mile radius and those next door will be drastically affected by this snake farm,” she said.

Dan Sutherland approached city officials for the third time Thursday about his proposed business. He brought a Provo exotic animal veterinarian, Yoeny Calas-Dobson, and lawyer Randy Spencer of Spencer Fillmore to speak about the health and ordinance issues, respectively.

The debate stemmed from animal limitations. Snakes as wild animals are allowed as one per animal unit. Small animals, such as rabbits are allowed as 36 per unit. Sutherland said, however, that the pythons are exotic animals and wanted a new definition.

Dogs, koala bears, elk and bunnies were all used as examples to set the definition of how many animals are allowed for the property. Spencer asked that the attorney use a USDA animal unit definition of being a cow and her calf, or 1,000 pounds. He said that waste produced by the snake amounts to one pile of cow manure each week.

“I believe that each animal has to be evaluated on their impact on the environment,” Spencer said. “A snake does not have the same impact as a bunny.”

The commission decided to use the same number as is allowed for rabbits.

The commission did not address that the Sutherlands did not review their business with neighbors, as is a requirement for both a business license and a home business.

“I’ve heard some people say that they were not upfront,” Mapleton Mayor Jim Brady in a meeting beforehand. “From their e-mail contact with the city it appears they were upfront, at least with the city planner.”

Brady said that e-mails and applications between the city and now-resigned city planner Matt Evans started in January.

The baby snakes and mice are not included in the number until the snakes are six months old and the mice are 30 days old.

The Sutherlands’ business in California has 1,100 snakes to breed, which have up to 2,000 babies each year. Two barns, one for rodents and one for snakes are built almost to completion in Mapleton.

Property values, security, traffic, health concerns and smell were all worries from residents.

Sutherland said that no odor comes from the snakes and that charcoal filters will be installed to combat any odor.

In regards to property values, the commission decided to continue the item and review residents concerns.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A1.

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