Country living is generally more laid-back than cul-de-sac life when it comes to rules about what can and can’t be done. What wouldn’t fly in the suburbs is often greeted with a live-and-let-live attitude among neighbors who just want some peace and quiet.
That said, 19 bawling rodeo bulls on a 4.7-acre lot proved to be a bridge too far for a neighborhood on 135th Street about five miles straight west of downtown Olathe.
The residents asked for and got the Johnson County Commission to deny permission for the owner to keep up to 25 bulls in an area comprised mostly of piano-key-shaped lots.
The neighbors objected to the smell, flies, possible danger and the racket from loading and unloading the bulls — and to sounds some of them said were more like a scream than a gentle lowing.
The commission unanimously denied a conditional use permit requested by Jaime Rocha to keep the bulls on land owned by Teodoro V. Rivera at 33925 W. 135th Street. In so doing, the commission upheld the recommendation of county zoning staff and the Northwest Consolidated Zoning Board, which turned down the request Jan. 23. The commission also ruled against a companion request to build an oversized structure to house the animals.
Rocha had asked for permission to add to his herd, which at 19 was already outside of the county’s rules on the number of cud-chewing animals he could have.
No one, including the applicant, spoke in favor of the plan at the meeting. Neither Rocha nor Rivera could be reached for comment.
The denial means Rocha will have 30 days to remove the bulls that are already there illegally.
That couldn’t happen too soon for the about 20 neighbors who described to commissioners the ordeal of living next to the bulls.
Marilyn Hockersmith and her husband moved to their home in late June. With children grown, she said they were excited to get back out in the country after years in an Olathe subdivision.
The bulls are shielded from her view by trees, but she could hear them making a noise she described as a “scream.” Lights blazed some nights as they were loaded into trailers destined for the next rodeo. “We wanted to get back out in the country, but there was no fresh air,” because of the stench, she said.
Others told a similar tale. Carla Mermis, who lives about 1,000 feet from Rivera’s land, said the noise, flies and smell forced her family indoors. She also was concerned about the danger. Some bull pens appeared to be secured with rags, she said. “That scares the life out of me,” she said.
“We all live in nice homes, we take care of them and this is just not the place for this activity,” she said.
Gerald Loeffler said the air quality and runoff from the operation is a “real estate value destroyer.”
“I’ve lived out there 25 years and my property taxes have tripled. And last year for the first time I couldn’t go outside on certain evenings because of the stench,” he said.
The county first became aware of the problems three or four months ago, when someone complained. With 19 bulls, Rocha was already in violation of county rules that don’t allow any ruminant animals like cattle or goats on a lot less than 10 acres.
Rather than immediately remove the animals, Rocha decided to pursue a conditional use permit to allow more animals and a large building to shield them from the weather. But county officials had problems with that idea, saying state agriculture guidelines say that many bulls would need 50 to 75 acres if pasture-fed.
Since these bulls are penned, the smaller space could cause the sometimes dangerous animals to fight or possibly escape and damage property, officials said.