Source: Valley Roadrunner

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.

* * *

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.