SDCEF

San Diego County Equestrian Foundation

Union Tribune article ahead of BOS hearing

In horse country, regulations cause frustration, confusion

Countyto look at retooling codes for equestrian facilities

BY CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO, UNION-TRIBUNE

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2, 2011 AT 12:01 A.M.

Within months of purchasing two homes on 10 acres in ValleyCenter, Sally Cobb transformed a diseased orange grove into an equestrian ranchwith an arena, round pen and mare motel for her five horses.

Soon after, her family allowed others to move in and use thefacility for their horses. Then she hired a contractor to finish the grading ofa pad that would serve as the area for a pipe corral.

It wasn?t until code enforcers said the Cobbs were boardingwithout a permit that they learned they were among the hundreds of propertyowners who may be in violation of county regulations.

The breaches range from grading and erecting structures tooperating full-service equestrian centers ? boarding, training, lessons,clinics, breeding and sales ? without permission.

A growing contingent of the equine community, spurred by acollective frustration with what they describe as expensive and burdensomerules, is imploring the county to give them relief.

Today, the Board of Supervisors will weigh whether to directstaff to investigate options that protect and promote equestrian operationswhile ensuring reasonable regulations and permit fees.

The county has an obligation to monitor its regulations toensure they are fair, board Chairman Bill Horn said. The relevant sections ofthe ordinance have remained unchanged since 1978.

?Reducing red tape is one of my goals as chairman this year,?Horn said. ?For our equine community, this is the first step.?

Six years, five deadline extensions and $150,000 later, Cobbis still without the major-use permit. While properties on some easternstretches of the county are allowed to have public horse stables without amajor-use permit, only four permits have been approved in the county in thepast decade, officials said.

Horses have long been a way of life in Rancho Santa Fe,Ramona, Bonita, the Tijuana River Valley and elsewhere in the region. Racing,boarding, training, lessons and ranching are a multimillion-dollar industryacross the county.

?The county should be encouraging, not discouraging,reasonable and appropriate activities involving horses,? Supervisor DianneJacob said. ?It is my hope that this action will help protect and foster thisimportant part of our community.?

Michell Anne Kimball, president of the San Diego CountyEquestrian Foundation, said she has a vision for the thousands ofunincorporated acres across the county being eyed by developers, farmers andequestrians.

?We want to manage growth in order to preserve the heritageof equestrian use through trails and open space,? she said.

After purchasing about 30 acres in the unincorporated EdenValley, Kimball, the owner of Hunter Equestrian Center and Country Club Ranch,turned to the current ordinance and found ?an unintelligible document that?scontradictory in every section.?

Rather than spar with code enforcement or bring legal action,as others have, the organization set the goal to become the equestrianequivalent of the farm bureau. They?ve asked the county to form an advisorygroup to mediate between ranch owners and the county before code enforcementactions begin.

And rather than charge $40,000 to $60,000 for the permit,Kimball said, the county should relax some standards and apply fees based on afacility?s size and scope.

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