Cattle, homelessness and codes

The Saratoga Planning Commission affirms zoning codes


January 22, 2020

The Saratoga Planning Commission discussed a variety of topics at their January 14 meeting.

Cattle Nuisance

A complaint was made to the Saratoga Planning Commission regarding a cattle nuisance. The property in question is a 17 acre plot of land within the Town of Saratoga. Owner, Randy Stevens, appeared before the commission. He had purchased the property and along with it, the territorial irrigation water rights. The property has always been used for agricultural purposes; hay has been cut every year and animals have been ever present. Stevens stated that he felt that the land was grandfathered into the change of code that happened in the 1980s.

The contention of the complaint was that the property had changed hands after the code was modified, therefore, cattle within the town limits constitutes a nuisance.

According to the Saratoga Municipal Zoning Code, “There may be a change of tenancy, ownership or management of any existing, nonconforming uses of land, structures and premises; provided, there is no change in the nature or character of such nonconforming uses.”

The Planning Commission confirmed that the non-conforming use is therefore grandfathered. The nuisance complaint can’t be enforced because the land is being used the way it always has been.


The question of homelessness in Saratoga came about during the Planning Commission meeting on January 14.

A recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court in a case from Boise Idaho, has been brought up regarding a person living in a Recreational Vehicle (RV) here in Saratoga. In the 9th Circuit Court case, the City of Boise was sued for prosecuting homeless people who were sleeping in public spaces. The Untied States Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, thereby, setting a precedent.

While no one in Saratoga has been fined or otherwise punished, the individual had made an impassioned speech in a previous town council meeting regarding his rights and it was brought up again in this meeting.

The individual was given permission by his employer to stay on his land in an RV as he currently cannot afford to pay lot rent and utilities.

Homelessness is generally defined as living in housing that is below the minimum standard or lacks secure tenure.The topic was discussed. Saratoga currently doesn’t have any ordinances pertaining to homelessness.

The basis of the issue is that the use of an RV outside an RV Park violates zoning codes.

One attendee of the meeting was of the opinion, “I don’t think someone, anyone in this room, has to suffer from some one moving next door to them with an illegal or non-conforming use of a plot of land just because they are up against hard times.”

The affected individual is concerned that he will end up on the street. If he does end up on the street, the 9th Circuit Court ruling will protect his rights and he could live right here in Saratoga on the streets, in plain sight actually suffering because he has fallen on hard times.

The Planning Commission said it is clear cut per the zoning code, “Recreational vehicle” means a portable unit or structure designed and constructed in such a manner as to permit temporary residential occupancy, designed and constructed to be towed on its own chassis behind an automobile or self-propelled, operated independently of utility connections for short durations and which shall not conform to the standards set forth by the UBC/FHA for single-family dwellings. Recreational vehicles shall not be considered as a dwelling nor shall they be occupied unless located within a permitted recreational vehicle park.”

Saratoga currently only has two recreational vehicle parks.

Other concerns about recreational vehicles were brought up, one being if the windmills business takes off. There could be more people living in RVs due to the nature of the jobs. Saratoga would be missing out on a potential revenue stream.

Another attendee was concerned that Saratoga may be missing out on still another opportunity by not allowing people to live in RVs. He sited examples from Florida and Texas where people purchase lots in various towns to park on while they travel around the country. The example referred to snow birds, who travel the country in RVs, some of which may cost more than most of the homes in Saratoga. The snow birds have well maintained, manicured lots where they pay utilities all year even though they may only be using it during summer months.

The ruling of the 9th Circuit Court, which can be found at, reads, “Turning to the merits, the panel held that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment precluded the enforcement of a statute prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to alternative shelter. The panel held that, as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter … As one court has observed, ‘resisting the need to eat, sleep or engage in other life-sustaining activities is impossible. Avoiding public places when engaging in this otherwise innocent conduct is also impossible ... As long as the homeless plaintiffs do not have a single place where they can lawfully be, the challenged ordinances, as applied to them, effectively punish them for something for which they may not be convicted under the [E]ighth [A]mendment — sleeping, eating and other innocent conduct.”’

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be February 11 at 5:30 pm.


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