County considers tiered equine regulations

By Joe Naiman

The county’s Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss an update of equine regulations on Friday.

The meeting, which will begin at 9 a.m., includes a recommendation from county Department of Planning and Land Use staff for a tiered ordinance which would provide regulatory relief to smaller boarding, training, and other commercial operations.

“That looks like a really good idea to me for several reasons,” said John Degenfelder, who has attended three of the four stakeholders meetings organized by DPLU Planner Carl Stiehl.

Degenfelder’s Ramona home is part of a seven-acre parcel. He has four Arabian mares on the property that are used both for recreational riding and for the commercial purpose of breeding racehorses. Degenfelder’s land includes four empty corrals and four box stalls.

“If I wanted to board my daughter’s horse or somebody else’s horse, I wouldn’t have to go through a big long $10,000 permit,” Degenfelder said.

A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote March 2 directed the county’s chief administrative officer to work with the county’s equestrian community and any other interested parties to investigate options that would protect and promote equine operations throughout unincorporated San Diego County. The options included the potential development of a tiered ordinance, similar to what the county has adopted for wineries, and the CAO was directed to report back to the supervisors within 120 days.

Because horse ownership for non-commercial purposes or for off-site activities such as shows or racing is not subject to county land use regulations on a parcel zoned for large animals, an exact horse population is not available, although a Ramona Equine Industrial Network survey produced an estimate of approximately 11,000 horses in Ramona alone.

Stiehl and Claudia Loeber led a DPLU review of state law and of activities undertaken by other jurisdictions, and DPLU staff has recommended the tiered ordinance option which would allow small operations without discretionary permits, larger operations with an administrative use permit (which involves notification to neighboring properties and public review but does not require a hearing unless one is requested by any party), and the largest operations with a minor use permit or major use permit. A Programmatic Environmental Impact Report was required for the winery ordinance and will likely also be needed for the changes in equine regulations.

Stiehl has also been in contact with community planning groups and community sponsor groups regarding the proposed updates. “Very, very happy that they’re cooperating,” Degenfelder said.



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