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July 2010

June 2010

Deficit of trust

I’ve finally figured out what’s wrong with me. (And it’s not just me.) Larimer County’s minor-by-comparison, and stubbornly-never-ending horse land use dispute is part of a much bigger problem. Businessweek’s Chris Farrell hit the bull’s eye in his article, “The Most Damaging U.S. Deficit: Trust.” Did you know that only 22 percent of those surveyed -- the lowest in half a century -- trust their government? I suspect the percentage is much higher among boarding stable owners around here. Without trust, this country’s prosperity and well-being become questionable. Read Farrell’s article to learn why. I wonder: Once lost, can trust be regained?

Previous horse land use articles

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Boarding? County about to come a-knockin'

FORT COLLINS, Colorado -- The good news: The never-ending Larimer County horse boarding conflict is nearly over.

The bad news: Property owners who want to board horses will think long and hard about whether to bother. You, the horse owner, may be hard-pressed to find somebody willing to share their farm or small acreage.

The good news: There are several large stables in the county with room for 80, 100, or even more horses, which already have special reviews or are grandfathered in, and just dying to get your business.

For those who boarded, trained or gave lessons before 1988: You may be able to prove you existed, and at what level, for the last 22 years, and be "grandfathered".

Two of the three county commissioners who have the final vote July 19 appeared ready Monday night to approve some version of proposed regulations for horse boarding. The planned effective date for the rules has moved from August 2 to September 7.

What the final draft looks like remains to be seen, but there will be “use by right” for places boarding a few horses, and tougher, more expensive levels of review the more you want to do. You might be able to trade a horse for the right to teach a couple of lessons, and you can expect a break on fees, and a kinder, gentler approach during the one-year “transition period” for existing horse facilities.

Instead of the one-horse-per-half-acre rule we follow now, the latest change Monday night limits property owners to one boarded horse per 2.5 acres. Those not qualifying for “use by right” will have to develop resource management plans, document clientele and riding lesson volume, be visited and evaluated by county staff, make potential facilities improvements, and get “certified”.

The main selling point of the plan is that it’s better than forcing everybody into a long, tens-of-thousands-of dollars special review (including consultants’ costs), which has been the rule for 22 years. Problem was, Larimer County operated on a complaint basis, there were few complaints, few knew the rule existed. Some now object to losing a property right and way of life.

Another selling point is that you can increase your property’s value by getting the county seal of approval. Oddly enough, I had the Better Business Bureau call yesterday offering me the same thing.

Anyway, the angst and crying “foul” are all water under the bridge. Horse boarding is a done deal in Larimer County. Commissioners, who tweaked rules Monday night with what remains of the volunteer working group assigned to the project, urged members all to return July 19 to support the plan, and this time, no dissenters please.

Commissioners also invited the public to bring feedback to the July 19 hearing. The plan is in place however, and this is just my opinion, but don’t expect any major changes.

Commissioners Steve Johnson and Lew Gaiter nodded and smiled Monday night when planning director Linda Hoffman alluded to a “final” vote. Commissioner Tom Donnelly remained noncommittal.

Stable owners and property owners boarding just “a few” horses: The county will come a-knockin’. It’s not a question of if, but when. Stay tuned as the final plan emerges.

Quotes from Monday night meeting

Contact Larimer County commissioners

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‘Dead body’ and the pursuit of good grazing

This is the first year in a long time that we have managed to clean the ditch, get the water running (for which we own rights), and get the 1930-1950-1980-1995-something pump system going. This feat took four intelligent adults about three weekends of work, all for the sake of the horses’ grazing.

Pulling in the driveway Saturday, I noticed that our street had a giant puddle next to it. I also noticed that water spurted out from the dirt levee that shields our property from the road. Rogue water was ruining my triumph over that little known force of nature: irrigation.

It didn’t take long to figure out that a pipe behind our levee had backed up and forced water through the side of the levee. Our house was built in 1897, give or take a year, and these are old pipes, now covered in decades of dirt and evolving trees. The pipe had performed a miniature sedimentary geology experiment that now needed digging out. Later, after several fresh mosquito bites, gallons of sweat shed while digging, choice cursing, and near-death experiences in four inches of “super mud”, the pipe remained clogged.

I stuck the shovel up the pipe and it only went about halfway. There was only one thing left to do: Stick my hand up there, in the dark, slimy, unknown.

Whatever was in the pipe felt like a giant kitchen scrub, tough and slightly spongy. I started yanking at things and touched two creepy, twiggy things. Pinky fingers? They were roots. I hacked those in half, and scrabbled at rocks, mud and sand in the mouth of the pipe. 

I was sure that three weekends of work was about to become a week or so of excavation, unpaid time off the day job, pipe replacement, and frankly, I have better things to do. Somewhere in there, my temper snapped, and I yanked over and over again on the twiggy-root-fingers. If nothing else, those suckers were coming out.

When something very large shifted behind the twiggy-root fingers, I jumped back. Actually, my body jumped back. My feet stayed in the super mud.

A dead body immediately came to mind. Call me over-reactive. On the other hand, a good imagination goes a long way toward ditch work well done. I pulled harder. It loosened, and started creeping out. I pulled, and I pulled, and I pulled. And what came out …

Continue reading "‘Dead body’ and the pursuit of good grazing" »

'Current regulations so bad, we don't enforce them'

FORT COLLINS, Colorado -- Larimer county commissioners and working group members took up changes to proposed rules for boarding stables Monday night, with commissioners giving a thumbs down to existing stables paying transportation and capital expansion fees during the so-called "transition period."

Commissioners also expressed a desire to finish this project in time for the July 19 vote, and to create a plan that improves an unenforceable situation, that being a required special review for anyone boarding more than four horses.

"Our current regulations are so bad, we don’t enforce them," said commissioner Lew Gaiter. "Is this a far site better than where we are today?"

Planning director Linda Hoffman offered a change to regulations, giving stables one boarded horse per 2.5 acres, with a cap of somewhere between 12 - 20 horses as a use by right for large properties. The group split on whether the current four-boarded-horse minimum should remain the minimum.

Other comments:

Regarding boarding:

  • "People who board horses probably take better care of their property than people who don’t." -- working group member Trisha Swift.

Mandatory registration for everybody:

  • "From the neighboring point of view … I feel like the accessory horse keeping thing is nickel and diming everybody else to death. We’ve been giving and giving. Therefore I don’t consider it an unnecessary burden to require a certificate. Yes, I want facilities to continue. I make use of them myself. It just seems around every turn we’re not doing this and not doing that. Is somebody willing to stand by what they say they're gonna do?" -- working group member Kathleen Kilkelly
  • "Does it matter if we say ‘must’ or ‘may’, other than irritating the crap out of people who have already been irritated?" -- working group member Dennis Goeltl
  • "The person who is just boarding a pony for the neighbor should not have to be out of compliance." -- working group member Wendy Chase
  • "I’ve got to tell you I’ve been operating my county business for quite a while until I heard about this, and I just turned in my paperwork about a week ago. … I think it becomes a benefit to horse owners, as long as we’re not draconian about it … Part of the reason people don’t want to register is that they don’t trust the government." -- Commissioner Lew Gaiter

Counting trainee visits:

  • "When you’re talking about dust and noise, and impact on neighbors, the trainee visits are a very big thing. Trainee visits are probably the biggest impact there is." -- working group member Wendy Chase
  • "I don’t want you coming into our hearing next month, and telling me what a sack of crap our regulations are." -- Commissioner Tom Donnelly
  • "If you are doing this as a significant source of income … then it’s a business and it’s subject to some regulation." -- Commissioner Lew Gaiter

Whether to stick with the formula:

  • "I think if we make another sweeping change on the formula for equestrian operations, we’ll be back here (in the meeting room) again." -- working group member Mary Hattendorf
  • "We’ve gotta have a scalable system that has to be simple … We have 100 barns in this community that have to go through this process. I believe 85 - 90% of them have been doing the right thing since 1988." -- stable owner Bob Dehn 

Required screening of horse trailers:

  • "I see nothing more offensive about a row of horse trailers than I do seeing a row of farm machinery." -- working group member Wendy Chase (The consensus was to eliminate this requirement.)

Resource management plan:

  • "It’s a workbook that leads toward an applicant’s proposed plan. It would have key indicators that would indicate whether you’re meeting goals you’ve set." -- county planner Russ Legg
  • "It’s the people who actually know the industry who are providing the content. At least you’re not disagreeing with people who don’t have a clue." -- Commissioner Lew Gaiter
  • "We’re not telling people they have to use fly predators." -- working group member LuAnn Goodyear
  • "There will be multiple choices." -- planning director Linda Hoffman

County commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposal July 19.

Tonight: 'Take 3' on boarding stable rules

FORT COLLINS, Colorado -- The working group in charge of making new rules for horse boarding stables will work with Larimer County commissioners tonight in a "Take 3" on changes.

Don't blink or you'll miss the destruction

Commissioners tabled a vote on the issue last month, citing concerns about fees, a required resource management plan, and what should be allowed as a "use by right". In November, planning commissioners, who have an advisory vote, also tabled the proposal.

The meeting takes starts at 6 p.m. Carter and Boyd Lake Conference Rooms, 1st Floor, 200 West Oak Street, Fort Collins, Colorado. While the meeting is open to the public, people will not be allowed to comment.

Previous coverage

Contact Larimer County commissioners

'horsetwits' a winner

Fun factoids about horses, here we come! These are just the last three tweets I picked up from "horsetwits' at Twitter.

  • Falebella of Argentina, is the smallest breed.
  • "Old Billy," was the oldest recorded horse who lived to be 62 years.
  • Horses do not have a gall bladder.

If you don't already use Twitter, this is a fun way to start! Once you have an account, go to "search for people", and plug in "horsetwits". (Yes, it is case sensitive.) To get tweets from 'horsetwits' you will have to click on their "follow" button. Enjoy!
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