Sheep showdown set for Petersburg - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Sheep showdown set for Petersburg

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PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) -

A Petersburg woman prepares to fight for her flock, after city officials drafted a new ordinance to ban farm animals in residential neighborhoods.

Dana Ballenger owns seven sheep and a donkey, "living lawn ornaments" grazing steps away from her 18th century historic home.

"They love cookies, and they don't make a sound," Ballenger said in an interview Tuesday. "They give the area a feeling like you're in Williamsburg, and my neighbors love them."

But the animals could soon vanish from Ballenger's High Street home. A proposed ordinance would ban all livestock within 100 yards of any house in Petersburg. The new regulation would apply retroactively, forcing out Ballenger's flock.

"I think the City has more important things on its priority list," Ballenger said. "I wasn't breaking any law before, and I even had permission that the City wants to take away."

The E.R. nurse bought the donkey in 2010, the year stray dogs killed her flock of four sheep. After the incident, Ballenger asked officials if she could replace the herd of four, a request granted in a letter from Petersburg's zoning administrator.

Now, Ballenger's flock has grown to seven, and the Board of Zoning Appeals ruled in March she can only keep four.

"The problem is, there's no law saying how many animals I can or can't have," Ballenger said. "They used my letter as a precedent, but a letter is not a law."

According to Ballenger, the neighboring Destiny Inn Bed and Breakfast initiated the complaint with Petersburg. Perita Pradia, co-owner of the Inn, did not confirm the action began with her.

"This is an issue with my neighbor and the zoning department," Pradia said at her home in an interview April 4. "It's nothing personal."

Ballenger says she is not the black sheep of the neighborhood. Instead, her animals are embraced by the community.

"All of my neighbors love my sheep and donkey environment," Ballenger said. "It makes them feel like they're in Williamsburg. People bring their grandkids to feed them at the fence, they don't bark or bite or stink, and yet it appears to be a problem in Petersburg."

However, 100 people signed a petition opposing farm animals in residential areas and presented it to City Council at its April 2 meeting.

City Manager William E. Johnson III says in a statement that Ballenger's "has not complied with the spirit and intent of the laws of Petersburg governing residential zoning."

The proposed ordinance is scheduled to come up for a vote at a May 4 Petersburg City Council meeting, open to the public at 7:30 p.m.

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