The County’s Planning Commission recommended approval of a tiered equine ordinance which would streamline some commercial stables activities.
The Planning Commission voted 4-0 June 14 to endorse the tiered ordinance with Michael Beck abstaining and Leon Brooks and John Riess not present. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors must approve any changes to the county’s Zoning Ordinance; county Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS) project manager Carl Stiehl expects the ordinance to be docketed for a late summer Board of Supervisors hearing.
“These are more to allow for the mom and pop stables that board neighboring horses,” said planning 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, which is a ministerial permit issued by PDS for the purpose of verifying that a particular use or structure complies with all appropriate Zoning Ordinance regulations.
A discretionary Administrative Permit, which requires public review but is granted by the PDS director and only requires a hearing if any party requests one, would be required 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.
The county’s current equine regulations were incorporated into the Zoning Ordinance in 1978. The regulations consist of horsekeeping, which allows for private use on properly-zoned parcels, and commercial stables. Commercial stables include boarding and breeding operations, which do not involve visitors from the general public, and commercial stables also include public stables which provide riding lessons, trail rides, equestrian events, and other activities which include members of the public.
Public stables and boarding and breeding stables would be combined into a single use type, horse stable, should the new ordinance be approved. The ordinance also stipulates that an Administrative Permit or Major Use Permit can allow a specific number of competitions or horse shows which are considered an Outdoor Entertainment Event under the Zoning Ordinance.
The 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 ordinance also grandfathers four facilities which operated prior to the creation of the equine zoning regulations in October 1978 provided that they do not exceed the maximum number of horses allowed or change the use.
“I like the direction the county’s going,” said planning commissioner Peder Norby. “I think this is wonderful.”
In March 2011, the county supervisors directed the county’s chief administrative officer to work with the county’s equestrian community and other interested parties to investigate options which would protect and promote equine operations throughout unincorporated San Diego County and to report back to the Board of Supervisors within 120 days.
In July 2011, the county supervisors directed county staff to update the county’s equine regulations using a tiered ordinance while appropriating $350,000 to cover staff time and the programmatic environmental impact report. The equestrian community was supportive of a tiered ordinance which would streamline the process for small equestrian businesses while ensuring the protection of neighbors’ interests.
A ministerial permit does not require public review, but it is not a true by-right permit as it is granted upon completion of conditions on a checklist. The equestrian community did not oppose permits themselves but expressed concern about the time and cost of discretionary permits. Either a ministerial or a discretionary permit would require compliance with best management practices for the 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 ordinance requires one parking space for every five horse corrals, paddocks, or stalls, and one loading space for every three required parking spaces.
The environmental impact report (EIR) is being finalized; the draft EIR was completed in January and circulated for public review in February and March. Because the final EIR must include responses to all comments, PDS staff is finalizing the EIR which would be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
The EIR assumes that every possible property would utilize 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.