Commissioners back tiered equine regs

By Joe Naiman

San Diego County Planning Commission supports a tiered ordinance as part of the update of the county’s equine regulations.

The commission’s 7-0 vote May 20 sends the recommendation to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, which is expected to hold a hearing June 29. The commission recommended the tiered ordinance from among the four options developed by county Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) staff. The actual ordinance will be developed after the supervisors provide direction regarding potential content of the tiered ordinance.

“I’m glad to see this is going in the right direction,” said Bonsall resident David Puchta, president of the San Diego County Horsemen’s Association.  “It’s long overdue.”

A 5-0 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 to 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.

Carl Stiehl led the effort on behalf of DPLU, organizing four stakeholder meetings and contacting community planning and sponsor groups. Stiehl and Claudia Loeber led a DPLU review of state law and of activities undertaken by other jurisdictions.

“They were really cooperative,” said John Degenfelder of Ramona. “The county’s been cooperative.  Stiehl did a great job. It’s really neat to get all this squared away.”

Stiehl noted that the county’s equine regulations consist of horsekeeping, which allows for private use on properly-zoned parcels, and commercial stables. Commercial stables include boarding and breeding operations, that do not involve visitors from the general public, and commercial stables also include public stables that provide riding lessons, training, trail rides, equestrian events and other activities that attract members of the public. The equine regulations were developed more than 30 years ago as part of the county’s Zoning Ordinance.

The update will focus on commercial stables and is not likely to change horsekeeping zoning. Issues that will be considered include traffic, noise, flies and other vectors, stormwater, dust and grading concerns, size of the operation and parcel, and proximity to neighbors.

DPLU staff developed four options:

•Option A would allow horse stables with ministerial rather than discretionary permits.

•Option B is the tiered ordinance, which based on the property size and number of horses would require a ministerial permit for some activities, an administrative permit (involves notification to neighboring properties and public review but does not require a hearing unless one is requested by any party) for larger activities, and a Minor Use Permit or Major Use Permit for the largest operations.

•Option C would require discretionary permits for all commercial stables but would change some use permit requirements to the administrative permit process.

•Option D would maintain the current regulations with no changes.

Option A or Option B would require a Programmatic Environmental Impact Report. A funding source for that EIR would be identified before the ordinance and the corresponding EIR are developed, and the Planning Commission hearing on the actual ordinance would not take place until the EIR has been circulated for public review.

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