Regulatory changes allowing goats to graze on kudzu and any other “extreme or invasive” vegetation on a steep embankment near West Park Medical Park on U.S. 421 Business and elsewhere in town were addressed in the North Wilkesboro Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday night.

The Health Foundation Inc. submitted a written petition Dec. 18 seeking permission to use goats to control kudzu during the yearly growing season on its property at that location. According to the petition, the goats would be contained in an electric fence.

During its Jan. 16 meeting, the North Wilkesboro Planning Board discussed the request and recommended town board approval of three text amendments to the town’s General Business District zoning code that would allow using goats to control kudzu and other extreme vegetation during the yearly growing season in all town zoning districts.

The proposed text amendments would only allow goats for grazing and only electric fencing to contain them. No structures would be allowed inside fencing to house the goats.

They would also allow issuance of up to five temporary zoning permits per parcel annually allowing goats on a property for up to 14 days per permit cycle in all zoning districts, including residential.

Town Planner Meredith Detsch stated in a memorandum to town staff that current general business zoning for the parcel in question doesn’t allow grazing livestock or electric fencing.

Detsch stated in the memo that the use of goats to manage an invasive species like kudzu is an environmentally-friendly approach, “as it largely prevents the need for chemicals and other herbicides.”

She also noted that the Health Foundation property is near the Yadkin River and is in a proposed WS-IV watershed for the town’s proposed new raw water intake near the Yadkin River Greenway bridge over the Yadkin. While still pursuing the new intake, North Wilkesboro officials are also investigating the possibility of buying treated water from Wilkesboro and other alternatives.

Detsch said goats are used throughout the state to remove kudzu and other invasive species, including in Asheville, Durham, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Raleigh, Hillsborough and Gaston County.

The North Wilkesboro commissioners agreed to hold a public hearing on the proposed text amendments allowing goats to graze on kudzu and other extreme vegetation at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 4.

If approved by the board, the changes to “temporary alternative landscaping” would allow issuance of permits allowing temporary use of goats for grazing to control invasive or extreme vegetation in all zoning districts.

A legal notice regarding the proposed zoning changes was printed in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot on Tuesday, and another ad is scheduled to run in the Jan. 31 edition.

Kudzu is a climbing, coiling, and trailing perennial vine native to much of eastern Asia, Southeast Asia, and some Pacific islands. It was introduced from Japan into the United States at the Japanese pavilion in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and is now common along roadsides and other disturbed areas throughout most of the southeastern United States.

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