Grandfather clause approved for home with 11 cats; cat licensing discussed

Roberta Royal, who has lived in her home on Willow Wood Dr. in Cambridge for 23 years, has always had a soft spot for cats.

When a stray cat would come to her door, she would have a hard time turning it away.

Currently, Royal has 11 cats living with her and her husband John.

However, when the city of Cambridge adopted an ordinance April 16 limiting the number of combined total dogs and cats to not exceed six, Royal became out of compliance.

During the Cambridge City Council meeting June 4, City Planner Marcia Westover explained the city has received two complaints regarding the cats at the Royal residence.

Westover explained the complaints were received June 27, 2011 and April 5, 2012. She said the complaint on June 27 claimed the Royal’s cats run all over and leave feces everywhere.

Westover explained after  the city investigated the complaints, and discussed the situation with Royal, Royal decided to approach the city council about being “grandfathered in” so she could keep her 11 cats.

During the council meeting, Royal explained most of her cats are elderly, all of them have been spayed and neutered with medical records available at East Central Veterinarians and when the cats are outside they are  tied up.

“John and I were very shocked when we learned about the situation,” Royal said. “We have lived here 23 years and up until a year and a half ago we have never had any complaints. Three-quarters of the cats we have were stray cats. John and I have done adult foster care for over 18 years and the state never had any issues with our cats.”

Royal added her home is clean, and she has an immaculate yard.

“I’m not sure what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Royal said. “We’ve had some changes with some folks moving in and others moving out. Maybe someone doesn’t like cats, but for 20 years it has never been a problem.”

Council Member Bob Shogren, who voted against the April 16 ordinance, said he doesn’t agree with the ordinance.

“I didn’t agree with the ordinance in the first place,” Shogren said. “I have heartburn with not allowing them to keep their pets. They were in compliance before we changed the city code … These are these people’s property. We are starting to have too much regulation on peoples’ personal property.”

Mayor Marlys Palmer thinks the ordinance should have included a way for people to keep their pets if they have more than six.

“I truly think there should have been some provision for those who had more than six cats,” Palmer said. “But when you live in a city and in close proximity to people, a lot of time these ordinances are for the protection of those around us.”

Royal explained the last cat they took in was around four to five years ago.

Council Member Lisa Iverson said it’s a tough issue.

“This is a really sensitive situation,” Iverson said. “I have cats who are just like kids. But I also have kids with sandboxes that they should be able to play in all the time.”

Shogren said the council should either amend the ordinance, or revoke the ordinance and look at a licensing provision.

Following discussion, the council, by a 4-0 vote with Council Member Chris Caulk abstaining, approved a grandfather clause to allow the Royals to keep their 11 cats, but with the condition they can’t acquire any more cats. The motion also directed staff to work an ordinance requiring the licensing of cats.

Caulk said he abstained from voting because he felt he didn’t have enough information or documentation to cast a vote.

LED Street Lighting

Public Works Director Steve Wegwerth approached the council regarding changing to LED lighting beginning with the 2012 street project.

Wegwerth explained with utility costs continuing to rise, he has been working with East Central Energy (ECE) on a LED street lighting program.

Wegwerth explained this year’s project has 39 of the 30 foot street lights replaced and 23 of the 15 to 18 foot lantern style light poles.

He outlined the advantages of changing to LED lighting that include:

• They give off a whiter light instead of the yellowish light given off by high pressure sodium.

• There is no considerable drop off in light output as with the high pressure sodium lighting that starts to drop off in one year.

• LED lights have a 10-year plus life expectancy.

• The biggest advantage is 50 percent less power to operate.

Wegwerth said the cost to make the change for the project would be $56,430. He said the funds are in the street project budget.

“As we do projects we will implement the LED lighting where we can,” Wegwerth said. “This is a real chance for us to control our electric utility costs. I also think it’s a big plus to not have the drop in light and having to replace bulbs. I think it’s a good project with Dellwood Street which would allow better lighting on a main traffic area.”

Wegwerth said he would pursue a maintenance agreement with ECE.

Following discussion, by consensus, the council gave Wegwerth approval to continue moving forward with the LED lighting program with ECE.