Restrictions stop Knox homeowner from using kudzu-eating goats

Restrictions stop Knox homeowner from using kudzu-eating goats

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Since early June, John Matson has been using a flock of 20 goats to eat kudzu. Since early June, John Matson has been using a flock of 20 goats to eat kudzu.
John Matson points out where kudzu is over-growing his trees. John Matson points out where kudzu is over-growing his trees.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Some communities have turned to a decidedly low-tech idea for clearing land overgrown with kudzu.

That includes Knoxville, where goats are being used to combat the invasive species.

People living in a West Knox County neighborhood want to give that idea a try, but they've found that county zoning rules are in the way.  

John Matson and his family live in a home on Casa Real Cove. It sits on three acres along the Tennessee River in West Knox County.  

Since early June, Matson has been using a flock of 20 goats to eat the kudzu he fears will destroy the trees in his yard.

"We didn't want to use chemicals, we didn't want to bulldoze," Matson said. "We're trying to save the forest."  

Matson received a letter from the Knox County Codes Enforcement Department notifying him he had to remove the goats from his property within 30 days.

Matson was told he had violated a zoning ordinance by having the goats on his property. 

Whistle Pig Farms in Thorn Hill supplied Matson with the goats. Farm owner Richard Gibbs spent the day removing the flock from the home on Tuesday.

Tan Rara Subdivision, where Matson lives, is zoned as RA low density residential zone, which is not zoned for agriculture use.

There are residential areas that allow goats and other livestock in Knox County, but the homes must be in an agricultural zone.

"In those zones a person could put goats, chickens on their property if their subdivision restriction didn't disallow it," said Knox County Chief Building Official Roy Braden, who is head of codes enforcement.

The Tan Rara Subdivision Homeowners Association president contacted County Commissioner Dr. Richard Briggs.

Briggs says he plans to draft an ordinance allowing for all residential property owners to apply for a temporary permit to use goats to control kudzu or other invasive plants.

Briggs says the proposed permit period could range from 30 to 60 days, but he hasn't made up his mind yet.  

"It's something that I think most citizens would say is okay and a good idea from both the ecological standpoint and mostly just common sense," said Briggs.  

While goats are not permitted for use for Knoxville city residents, they can be used on county- and city-owned property.  

Goats could be allowed on Knoxville city land zoned for agriculture, but only on use by review.

"You see kudzu everywhere," said Matson. "It doesn't make sense that a private citizen can't clear his property, but it's okay for the government do it and its legal for them, but not the next door neighbor."  

Briggs says the resolution changing these rules could be taken up at Knox County Commission's August meeting.

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