Commission sends tiered equine plan to supervisors

By Joe Naiman

A tiered equine ordinance proposed to streamline some commercial stables activities has the approval of the San Diego County Planning Commission.

In a 4-0-1 vote on Friday, with Michael Beck abstaining and Leon Brooks and John Riess absent, commissioners endorsed the proposal and sent it to the Board of Supervisors.

County Department of Planning and Development Services Project Manager Carl Stiehl expects the ordinance to be docketed for a late summer supervisors’ hearing.

“These are more to allow for the mom and pop stables that board neighboring horses,” said Commissioner Bryan Woods.

The tiered ordinance allows for up to three horses not owned by the property user to be boarded by right.  A maximum of 10 horses per acre or 50 horses total would be allowed with a zoning verification permit, a ministerial permit from the county verifying that a particular use or structure complies with zoning regulations.

A discretionary administrative permit, which requires public review by the county and a hearing if anyone requests it, would be needed for 51 to 100 horses if there would be no more than 10 horses per acre.

A discretionary major use permit, which involves a Planning Commission hearing, would be required for more than 100 horses or for more than 10 horses per acre.

“This new tiered system would streamline the permitting process for many stables,” Stiehl said.

Current equine regulations have been in effect 1978.

The proposed ordinance would not change any allowance for private use, including commercial use for such activities as horse racing and rodeo, provided that no commercial activity occurs on the property.  Areas where zoning allows commercial horsekeeping by right are also not affected.  The proposal also grandfathers four operations that existed before October 1978 provided they do not exceed the maximum number or horses allowed or change the use.

“I like the direction the county’s going,” said Commissioner Peder Norby. “I think this is wonderful.”

In March 2011, county supervisors directed county staff to work with the equestrian community and other interested parties to investigate options to protect and promote equine operations throughout unincorporated San Diego County. In July 2011, the supervisors directed staff to update the equine regulations using a tiered ordinance, and they appropriated $350,000 to cover staff time and an environmental impact report.  The equestrian community supported a tiered ordinance that would allow small equestrian businesses while protecting neighbors’ interests.

A ministerial and a discretionary permit would require compliance with best management practices for various impacts. Properties must comply with odor, manure management, grading, stormwater and watershed protection, fire protection, vector control, equine living facilities, signage and outdoor lighting, and setback regulations.

The proposed ordinance requires one parking space for every five horse corrals, paddocks or stalls, and one loading space for every three required parking spaces.

A draft environmental impact report was completed in January and circulated for public review in February and March.  Because the final EIR must include responses to all comments, county staff is finalizing the EIR, which would be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

According to a county report, the EIR assumes that every possible property would have the maximum number of horses, which would create potentially significant impacts including aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, greenhouse gas emissions, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, noise, and traffic. The EIR will include a statement of overriding considerations.

   
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