To the editor:
I am writing in response to recent discussions of “Barking Dogs” in Jackson County and to the possibility of amendments to the current noise ordinances of Jackson County. I am the dog owner whom Norton resident Bill Armgard has repeatedly criticized at county commissioner meetings where this issue was discussed.
For generations my family has taken part in a tradition that began with our ancestors and was brought into Appalachia with the first Scots-Irish settlers: hunting with dogs. I was raised in this county hunting with dogs, and am currently raising my three sons in this same tradition.
I currently own 12 dogs, including six puppies, all of which are hounds used for the legal hunting of black bear and swine pursuant to the wildlife hunting regulations set forth by the N.C. Wildlife Commission. Of the 12 hounds, some are kenneled and some are kept chained to yard stakes.
To date, there have been absolutely no issues of aggression toward the general public and the dogs remain, outside of use in hunting, on private property that has been owned by my family for more than a century. My family owns 20 acres in Norton, 10 of which I own, and have owned this property since the earliest Jackson County property records: January 1, 1900.
I am writing you today to express my dismay with the recent news articles, in which all commissioners expressed their support of a noise ordinance amendment. This topic, this discussion, and the commissioner support associated with such an amendment has all stemmed from ongoing complaints from a handful of citizens.
The complaints regarding my dogs has come primarily from Norton resident Bill Armgard, who amongst other things has stated that there have been shotguns fired at his home as a result of this issue. Not only was this libelous statement made in the public forum of a commissioner meeting, it was publicized further by subsequent articles which ran in the media.
This defamation of character was not only unjustified, but lacked any documentation from complaints, formal charges, or convictions regarding such an incident.
The same is true of Mr. Armgard’s ongoing statements of noise associated with my dogs costing the county “millions of dollars” in potential property sales. I ask that rather than accept unfounded statements from single property owners, that you research these statements in order to verify their validity and furthermore that you keep the majority of Jackson County citizens in mind when considering the potential impact of such amendments.
We live in a rural community, much of which remains undeveloped by incorporation. If this were an amendment geared toward the townships of Sylva and/or Dillsboro then it could be justified on grounds of city limits. Yet to blanket the entire county with such an amendment is a direct attack on the freedoms associated with living in such a largely undeveloped area.
When a property owner with 20 acres of family land is not allowed to own dogs, work dogs used to provide food and recreation for a family, one must begin to question where the line is drawn between governmental regulation meant to serve the rights of citizens and governmental control meant to meet the demands of a select few. I was born in this county and raised on this land. I am your constituency.
From the county’s own estimates, the enforcement of such an ordinance would require the addition of at least seven employees, with benefits, as well as vehicles for enforcement.
The surrounding counties with ordinances have basically dropped regulation after realizing that the ordinance is virtually un-enforceable. All departments you have queried have expressed their dismay, and or inability, to enforce such an ordinance.
Lastly, to think that the potential cost of seven additional employees, benefits, and vehicles would be placed on the backs of county taxpayers, a potential cost of at least a few hundred thousand dollars realistically, to enforce this is a direct reflection of its infeasibility.
I am a volunteer fireman with the Cashiers-Glenville Volunteer Fire Department. I recently was in charge of moving the Waddell House for the Cashiers Historical Society. I employee 12 residents as well as over 20 subcontractors, all of who are members of this community. In short, I serve this community with dignity and honor and consider myself a community pillar in Southern Jackson County.
I respect your decision to allow a 60-day period for public comment from both sides of this issue before rushing toward a decision. All I ask is that you consider the potential impact of such an ordinance and consider the rights of all citizens in this county before making a decision on such a potentially detrimental ordinance.
This letter was initially written as an open letter to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.