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West Jordan Journal

Officials researching potential petting zoo at Veterans Memorial Park

Dec 06, 2021 03:46PM ● By Travis Barton

Goats are among the animals at The Farm at Gardner Village, which intends to move from its current location. (Photo courtesy Pixabay)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

A petting zoo could potentially set up its hay barrels at Veterans Memorial Park. 

After a majority of the West Jordan City Council signaled interest, city staff were directed to research a petting zoo’s feasibility.  

The idea, initially brought forward in August and revisited in October, comes from Councilman David Pack, who suggested a discussion about changing city code to allow farm animals for a petting zoo at the city’s primary park. 

Pack pointed out during an October work meeting that The Farm at Gardner Village is moving, and would like to keep the amenity in the city. 

“This is a good draw for our city and community,” he said. “And I’d hate to lose this 501(c)(3) animal rescue. It seems like this blends well with the historical nature of West Jordan.” 

Pack added the city could use more amenities, and having this farm located near the West Jordan Historical Museum (located just off 7800 South on the north side of the park) could be “a destination draw” that could “revitalize this area to safeguard our history.” 

“It’s recreational, it’s educational, it’s history,” Pack said. “It’d be a good draw for families in our city, and also out of our city, to come learn more about West Jordan. Hopefully that in turn breeds more growth. Seems like a win-win.” 

Councilmembers were interested and liked the idea, but the —along with city staff—had questions about liability, protection for the animals, costs, who is responsible for those costs, odors and proximity to major roadways among other things. 

Assistant City Attorney Duncan Murray said because it’s public property, it brings multiple issues into effect. 

“There’s a lot more issues at play here than even the ones brought up tonight that we’d have to analyze first for you as a council to make a fully informed decision,” Murray said. 

City officials also noted the corner of the park in question sees many Pokemon Go players congregate, making it one of the highest visited areas of the park.

The Farm at Gardner Village’s owner, Russ Murdock (but commonly known as Farmer Gil), assured city officials there is federal grant funding available for facilities and would have security on site 24/7 and fencing around the property. Many of their animals are rescued, and Murdock wants to keep them from falling into bad situations, he said.

Murdock explained their rent doubled last year and are looking for more space. “West Jordan’s been good to us; we’d like to stay here and be part of this community,” Murdock said.

Museum officials said the area to the east of their building is utilized for pumpkin walks in the fall and during baseball season, parking becomes an issue. 

For Councilman Kelvin Green, who likes the petting-zoo idea, the issue helps address a wider problem he would like to see fixed: the city’s facility use policy.

Green said they have events going on city property such as parks and parking lots regularly that aren’t addressed in the city’s policies.

“I’m suggesting the facility use piece of this is actually a bigger issue we need to address holistically, not just for a potential petting zoo,” he said. 

Councilman Chris McConnehey said he initially felt a petting zoo didn’t fit but noted side attractions in other cities around the country he’s seen and feels it could work. He also has reserverations but wanted staff to research further. 

“We need to be very careful and very thoughtful about what we’re doing and the way we do it,” he said.

But Pack expressed concern about the process, wanting to respect zoning and ordinances but worried how long it could take. 

“If we follow our normal protocol, it’ll be a year or two until we make a decision,” Pack said, later adding, “Whenever we talk about something it takes forever. I’m trying to expedite the process, not circumvent necessary protocol, but I’d like to see some sort of streamline and get things done. I don’t think Farmer Gil has a year for us to deliberate.” 

Pack wanted to direct staff to start facilitating it happen, rather simply a study. 

McConnehey said he needed his questions resolved to be supportive. 

“Without answers to those questions, I don’t feel like I’m doing my responsibility as a councilmember with responsibility for the tax funds we’ve received from the residents, potentially expending those or potentially putting them at risk without knowing the answer to some of those questions,” he said. 

McConnehey also voiced concern about “crafting policy for a specific person” noting city officials would still need to follow a request-for-proposal (RFP) process. He also suggested Murdock may want to retire at some point so future considerations need to be examined. 

“We need to make sure this is not done on a spur of the moment,” he said. “That doesn’t have long-term implications well-considered. Because once something goes in, it’s not going to change.”