Neighbors say neigh to six horses in residential area

Opposition to horses in the Golden Hills neighborhood has an ironic naysayer in Bernie Little, president of Horse Farms Forever

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Posted November 7, 2022 | By Belea T. Keeney

The Marion County Planning & Zoning Board approved a Special Use permit on Oct. 24 for a property owner to have six horses in the Forest of Golden Hills community in a 7-0 vote over objections from neighboring landowners, one of whom, Bernie Little, is the president of the group Horse Farms Forever.

The Marion County Board of County Commissioners will next vote on the permit request for the property at 4698 NW 84th Lane, which sits on the west side of the Sandlin Woods subdivision, also known as the Forest of Golden Hills. At the time of publication, the first hearing for the project had not yet been set.

Little owns two parcels totaling about 214 acres that abut to the south, west and north of the property. He wrote in a letter of opposition to the planning commission, “While I am an advocate for conservation of horse farms, especially in the Farmland Preservation Area, approving a Special Use Permit to allow horses on a residential parcel within a quiet, well-established residential community is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and is not a compatible use.

“Horses belong on rural property, not within R-1 residential subdivisions,’’ he wrote. “While this subject parcel is listed as 5.48 acres, an overlay of the various restrictions noted above significantly reduces the usable space. If a house, barn and other impervious surface are constructed, the acreage for horses is significantly reduced. There is no space to ride or exercise the horses and there is not enough pasture to support the requested 6 horses. In other words, this is not going to be a horse farm, but rather a horse feedlot.”

Little’s objection also included documents from the 2003 developer’s agreement; a drainage easement plan from 1983; his contention that the parcel was once used as an effluent spray field for sewage treatment; and that the property is subject to numerous agreements and covenants that would significantly restrict the actual acreage that could be used.

Another set of neighbors, Charlie Cantrell and Rachel Wagner, who own property to the south of the parcel, are also horse owners and objected as well. They wrote in an email to the board that they keep their horses on a 150-acre farm of their own “away from our home in Golden Hills, where they have the land necessary to thrive in a proper environment.”

They also listed concerns about the amount and type of traffic that a horse farm creates: veterinarians, farriers, feed trucks, manure trucks and similar.

“Taking into consideration that there would be a residence, barn, driveways, and parking areas, there would be very little space for one horse let along six. It would be cruel to house horses in such unrealistic conditions. This type of a horse facility would be nothing less than a hot dusty horse prison,” they wrote.

Marion County does have regulations about the number of horses (or other livestock) on acreage. Section 4.2.2 of the Land Development Code about residential usage of horses for personal use, states, “General requirements in RR-1 Zoning, RE Zoning and in any zoning classification permitted by special use: For the keeping of horses, the minimum square footage of pasture area not including the dwelling shall be 9,000 square feet [just over 1/5 of an acre] for the first horse and 6,000 square feet for each additional horse. The total number of horses shall not exceed four per acre, except foals, which may be kept until weaned.”

For context, one acre is comprised of 43,560 square feet.

The parcel is 5.48 acres, and the application for the permit shows a conceptual drawing with a main home and pool; a six-stall barn; a guest residence; a storage building; and a shavings/manure bin area. The property also contains two county drainage retention areas and a lift station for which access would be granted to the county; these areas could not be used as pastures.

Most homes in the core of the neighborhood are on one-half to about three acres.

On the east side of the neighborhood, abutting horse farms accessed from NW 70th Avenue and just west of the Crownwood condominium development, there are several parcels that range from 5 to 10 acres. A drive through the street showed several homes with cattle in the yards but most appear to be undeveloped lots or single-family dwellings without livestock facilities. None of the 5-acre parcels currently have horses; two of the 10-acre parcels have horses.