Wednesday, July 23, 2014 • 11:03
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Proposed equine ordinance lacks safeguards and will lower property values


August 21, 2013
The Board of Supervisors will consider the Tiered Equine Ordinance on Wednesday September 11, 2013 at 9a.m. The Board Chambers are located at the County Administration Center, Room 310, 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA.

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Most property owners have not learned the details of the Tiered Equine Ordinance, and that, if enacted, it lacks important safeguards to prevent lowering neighbors property values and denying them quiet enjoyment of their homes.

This proposed change to the horse keeping ordinance was promoted by horse owners, and has not had sufficient input from all the other affected property owners. There were meetings of "stakeholders" but they were almost exclusively composed of horse-owners who were advocating for this change.

There were only two members of the stakeholder group that shaped this ordinance who did not own horses, myself and Oliver Smith. There was no balance between property owners who advocated for this change, and other property owners who were opposed to this change. In effect, the details of this change were completely controlled by horse owners who wanted to have the right to put boarding stables on their property.

The potential impact of this ordinance change is huge … it allows people to put a horse boarding stable in a residential area with no input from neighbors. They will be allowed to run a commercial horse boarding business, give riding lessons, and as long as they comply with minimum sanitary requirements neighbors will have no right to object.

Before anyone says I have no standing please know that I have lived in San Diego county all my life, I was involved in 4-H and FFA from the time I was eight years old, and we keep animals on our property. I live in the country because I like the country —and the country life—but I chose my property carefully so it was not close to commercial animal operations. This ordinance would wipe that out and allow a boarding stable right next door to homes with no input required from neighbors.

Right now horse owners can keep an unlimited number of personal horses on their property, and that will not change. This ordinance is not about private ownership of horses, it is about allowing commercial boarding and riding in areas that are now only zoned for residential uses.

The proposed change allows owners to have up to ten horses per acre with a maximum of 50 horses on a property with nothing more than a "Zoning Verification" form. Ten horses per acre is not common in residential areas, and I doubt many existing owners would want up to 50 horses next door with riding lessons and all the associated noise and increased traffic.

There are many areas that are zoned for commercial horse operations. That has always made sense, everyone knew where those parcels were located, the neighbors knew when they bought there that commercial uses were permitted and that is completely fair to everyone.

I have absolutely no sympathy for someone who moves in next to an existing agricultural use and then complains about it. I also have absolutely no tolerance for someone who moves into an established neighborhood, then begins a money-making commercial operation that annoys the neighborhood and degrades the existing property value and quality of life.

Allowing commercial horse boarding will create dust and traffic issues, and will have a large and very negative impact on some neighbors and there is no mechanism for the neighbors to oppose this new and possibly incompatible property use. I tried to get the County to incorporate language that required neighbors to approve of this change, or at least a mechanism for transferring costs of road maintenance to these commercial uses, but that was rejected.

Making boarding stables a by-right use, without adequate safeguards for the affected neighbors is a huge error. This is likely to further reduce property values at a time when we cannot afford any decrease in the value of our homes. It would be very foolish to change the existing rules so a small and vocal minority is able to take literally tens of thousands of dollars from their neighbors without any permission required.

Further, the proposed ordinance has absolutely no mechanism to compensate the affected neighbors for increased use and wear and tear on the private roads that are the majority of the access points for these horse facilities. I doubt that most homeowners would like to pay the increased road maintenance bills for their neighbors money making commercial horse operation.

This could be a good ordinance, but the important safeguards were completely left out, and without a system of checks and balances this ordinance is ripe for abuse.

Writing this opposing opinion will irritate people who want this change and that is never my intention but if my dissent does irritate you please ask yourself, "Is it fair to allow one property owner to change the character of a neighborhood with no input from any other neighbors?"

No one wants a "by-right" change to existing law that negatively affects their property without requiring their permission.

I would like to see a modified horse-keeping ordinance, but it has to be fair, and address the true impacts to neighbors.

  1. print email
    Horse Boarding
    August 24, 2013 | 12:46 PM

    I am in favor of allowing land owners to use their property to make alittle money. The number of horses per acre limited to ten seems to be ok as long as the owner's manure control is at least daily. Horses do not make as much as kids. Kids quickly learn not to make noise around the animals.

    David Hawkins
  2. print email
    Horse Zoning
    September 09, 2013 | 11:21 PM

    I would like to thank every horse person for your professional patients while I lead this zoning reform. My words rang strong as I promised to ne the voice for you and your passion of horses. I would also like to thank the outstanding support group that finished the last leg for the founding group " The San Diego County Horsemen's Association" that held it members in private during negotiations with the Grand Jury, State and Federal courts and code inforcment. All of these activities to bring you a new and comprehensive zoning were funded solely by David A. Puchta and Annette Marie Puchta to the tune of 750,000. US Dollars. The county of San Diego paid for the zoning eir and planning department fees. A fundraising event with Supervisor Bill Horn inviting Mr. & Mrs. David A. Puchta allowed a public venue for Supervisor Horn to make the announcement of his support of the reform. Not to mention San Diego County Horsemen's association brought 2/3rds of horsemen and wemon to his vote potential helps. So give yourselves a big hand for being the professionals you always were. In the crux of NIMBY there were no fair ways to complain about horse operations as well. I made sure that was addressed as a fair argument for a ranch to keep tight rains on there housekeeping. Before a neigbor could complain and send a family farm into bankruptcy or worse. I put a lot of thought into my first complaint and it stood the test.

    "The Vail is Off"

    One Voice
    David A. Puchta and Family thank you.

    David A. Puchta
  3. print email
    Equine Ordinance
    September 11, 2013 | 03:42 PM

    The writer of this article is not accurate in his information. The ordinance, which was adopted by the County Board of Supervisors today says 10 horses per usable acre. This is a big difference with a residential area. The lot may be 5 acres, but 2-3 acres may be used up by the house, a swimming pool, a garage, paved area... This would not be usable space for equines and thus would not count for their permitting of allowed horses. The ordinance allows horse stables to come into compliance and is better for the community. It changes nothing for those who personally own the horses on their property.

    Deanne Sanderson
  4. print email
    New equine zoning ordinance
    September 12, 2013 | 07:52 AM

    Having owned and operated a public horse boarding stable for 10 years on my 10 acre ranch in Valley Center, and having spent $200,000 and 7 years processing the required major use permit only to have fees and requirements raised continually, I am uniquely qualified to comment on this article. Thanks to my going public with the plight to legalize my stable and the stables of my fellow equestrians throughout the County of San Diego, I persevered in the midst of much opposition and naysayers, educating the VCCPG in 2009 whose 15 members joined my cause and appointed an equine subcommittee where for two years we studied other counties' equine zoning laws and worked with the DPLU to process a Tiered ordinance, first suggested by SDC Farm Bureau president Eric Larson at the first SDCHA meeting in 2007. With over 2,000 signatures on my Petition for a new and reasonable ordinance, and my continued efforts to educate the public about the outrageous MUP requirements, four years later the BOS has approved a new ordinance. However, as I have stated several times throughout the two years of stakeholder meetings, and in my speech to the BOS yesterday, allowing 10 boarded horses per useable acre by right, with no public review or neighborhood input, is going to create impacts impossible to mitigate including reduced property values, despite the required BMPs. Valley Center has countless 2.5 acre properties with 2 useable acres for 20-horse boarding stables to pop up everywhere. This article is very accurate. I have warned the public repeatedly to get involved and to read the new draft ordinance, to speak their mind at the BOS and Planning Commission meetings, to write letters, etc., but very few members of the public have responded. Yesterday I spoke on behalf of non-horse property owners, encouraging the Board to reduce the Tier 2 numbers to a maximum of 5 boarded horses per acre, but after two years they were ready to approve the new ordinance and as Diane Jacobs stated, we'll see if there are problems resulting from it.

    Sally Cobb
  5. print email
    Equine Ordinance
    September 12, 2013 | 11:56 AM

    Anyone can contact me (Vincent Mulligan) at this email address and I can tell you first hand what the impacts of this ordnance is going to be on property owners as my in-laws live not more than 50 yards from a horse stable that moved in 6 years ago and the house smells of equine urine. This is not a good deal for anyone is if t

    Vincent Mulligan
  6. print email
    Mitigating the impacts of horse urine odors
    September 13, 2013 | 08:12 AM

    As the catalyst and founding member of the VCCPG's Equine Subcommittee in 2009, I worked diligently spending most of my time researching other equine zoning laws, and three of us devoted our Saturdays writing what we thought to be a reasonable permitting process for commercial horse stables. We used the valuable and important public protection measures within the Major Use Permit, but we made it specific to a horse stable, with far less processing time and costs. We believe this is what Tier 2 should look like, and it should be property specific, not a blanket right to board 10 horses per useable acre. With our stable, Tapestry Meadows, we mitigate all urine odors which are extremely unhealthy for horses and humans, by training the horses to urinate in a pile of sweet pdz, pelleted absorbent, and soft pine shavings at the top of the pile. Because horses do not like their legs splashed with urine, they learn to use the pile. In 10 years of boarding all types of horses, we have trained every horse to use the pile, some horses take a few days to learn and some taking a few weeks, but all of them eventually comply. It is one of the most important BMPs a horse stable can practice. I have spoken at length to County staff who wrote the Tiered ordinance, and they are aware of the health hazards of horse urine. Because this Tiered ordinance is now law, people affected by neighboring horse stables need to read the ordinance and understand the required BMPs for horse stables. Neighbors must understand and exercise their rights to file a code enforcement request for investigation (available online) when they are impacted.

    Sally Cobb
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