A pot-bellied pig is not Pandora’s Box

IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY, IT was the beautiful Pandora who was given a box (or a jar, depending on your translation) from Zeus and told not to open it.

Her curiosity overcame her, however, and she opened it, loosing a flock of miseries and maladies on mankind before she could close it again.

Pandora’s Box has been quoted time and again throughout history for unleashing something better left undone.

It was raised again by the Elkhart Lake Village Board when they turned down resident Christi Sadiq’s request to keep her pet pot-bellied pig, Strawberry, in the village despite an ordinance prohibiting most animals as pets.

Several speakers at the public hearing before the board and during the board’s discussion of the request, raised the specter of creating an exception to the ordinance that would unleash a literal flock of farm animals, beasts and other terrible things on the village.

Village President Alan Rudnick summed up the sentiment when he stated, “If we allow a permit for a pig, I know we’re going to get requests for chickens, goats, horses and who knows what else.”

But that missed the point.

The process the board was following, with the request for an exception to the ordinance, a public hearing on the request and a vote by the Village Board on the request, is why the village would not be subjected to an invasion of animals to rival what Noah loaded on the ark.

Any variance to an ordinance requires such a procedure and review. No binding precedent would have been set to allow this variance.

A pot-bellied pig is not a goat, a horse, a chicken or any other animal. The only precedent that might have been set would have been a porcine one, and other farm animals could reasonably be considered and rejected in the future.

Several speakers said the village should follow its ordinance, but ignored the fact that variances are often allowed to village ordinances.

If no exceptions were allowed to any ordinances, there would be no need for a

Zoning Board of Appeals.

If no exceptions were allowed to any ordinances, Downtown Night and many other popular public events in the village would be much different – and much less fun and attractive – with no provision for such things as open containers outside legal premises, advertising banners, street closings and more.

The point is, the village makes many reasonable and acceptable exceptions to its ordinances for good cause, with no apparent ill effect to the village or its residents.

It is also true that Sadiq had violated the village ordinance for several years by keeping her pet pig. It was her responsibility to inquire before bringing Strawberry home whether such a pet is legal in the village – even though it may have been legal in Florida where she spends the winter and is a legal pet in many communities, including nearby Sheboygan.

But it is also true that, once she found out about the ordinance, she made a good-faith effort to seek an exception.

The village could have weighed all the factors and made an exception for a domesticated – not a farm – animal that is not a problem or a nuisance. Sadiq could have been required to pay a fine for the period she kept the pig illegally and been given a trial period to show that Strawberry is an acceptable pet neighbor.

Instead, they chose to hew blindly and without regard to their ordinance. Let’s just hope they don’t start doing the same with some of their other ordinances.


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