Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Being Neighborly

Most people reading this diary already know our plans for business here at the ranch, but that was not necessarily so of all of our neighbors. Not only wanting to not jinx ourselves, but also to some extent truely not wanting some information out before its time, I have not mentioned anything about our plans to open a dog kennel in addition to the horse boarding stable.

Dog kennels are classified as commercial operations, and as we are zoned agriculture we had to submit an application to the county to be granted a Special Use Permit. Actually, we discovered somewhere along the process that some of the activities we want to do for the horse operations also are classified as special uses - such as the riding lesson program and the summer horse day camp / birthday parties.

Much of October and November was spent with us laboring over reading the county codes, researching other regulations, finding the mineral rights owners for this property, acquiring the relevant soils study, writing up about 10 pages worth of responses to the application, etc. This also required a rather detailed plot map of the property, including locations of the buildings, easements, topo lines, water features, fences, driveways, planned expansions, etc. As we knew this application was THE critical path to us being able to begin a kennel, we'd kicked our selves a ton for having delayed getting to it as long as we did. So, finally the day before Thanksgiving we got all twenty copies submitted.

Once submitted, the application is assigned to a particular planner who does the leg work to schedule things, notify the proper agencies, and help the applicant along. The first of two public hearings for the application is with the Planning Commission who review the packet as compiled by the Planner - including the Planner's recommendation for approval or not based on some approval conditions that are compiled from the conditions required or recommended by the many different agencies who care.

The Planning Commission then votes whether to pass the application along to the County Commissioners with a recommendation for approval or denial. The County Commissioners get to do the same application review at the second public hearing and then they give the final judgement.

Since these are both public hearings, we knew we wanted to be as forthright and open with our neighbors as we could. We had intended to have them over so that we could 'break the news' to them about our application personally before they learned of it in the mail. Unfortunately because it was right at Thanksgiving time that didn't happen and they received the letter from the county first. Never the less, we had our two closest sets of neighbors over for dinner one evening in December. As these two neighbors form the boarder on approximately 80% of our property line, we are certainly the most concerned for their good will.

The evening, it turned out, took an unexpected yet fotuitous turn right from the outset. Aparently the sellers had done nothing to endear themselves to the neighbors in the two years they lived here before us, so much of our conversation stemmed around how terrible their relations were and, consequently, how glad they are that we now own the property. Score One for our side!

As the evening ran down, we finally had to force ourselves to move to the topic of our application. It turns out the letter they received summarized our request in one short paragraph that highlighted the worst case scenario - basically a second residence with an 80 dog kennel. So we told them more about our plans - specifically that we were encouraged to put everything we could ever want into the request, because we wouldn't want to have to go through this process again. As a matter of fact, the whole second residence thing probably should not have even made it in. The bigger question we actually wrestled with was whether to include permission to build an indoor arena some day. We don't have the funds now, but we have already seen that our lack of indoor riding is a detractor for potential boarders. Same goes for the 80 dog maximum - I think we were originally talking about 60, and it got pushed to 80 at the last minute on a caveot that that would be holidays only. Again, it will be a long time before we will have the ability to handle 60, much less, 80 dogs. Problem is, if you ask for 80 dogs, even for a limited number of nights a year, you are still asking for an 80 dog facility which freaks everyone out.

So we gave the neighbors copies of our written application and maps, and they said they'd go read it and get back to us if they had any concerns. We frequently see one set - the 'Tom' neighbors - down when we're feeding, and one day they told Dave that they'd decided not to object to our application. Woo Hoo!

The other set, however, never got back to us. We decided last night that we should call and just make sure they remembered that today was the hearing, etc. Well - we waited a few minutes too long and they called us. Turns out they do have concerns over the kennel operation and they were forthright about their plans to attend the hearing and object to the kennel - but not the second residence or any of the horse operation. Uff Dah. Sorta took the wind out of our sails.
Since they don't schedule hearings in December, our first public hearing was set for the third Tuesday in January, otherwise known as today. And yep - you're going to have to wait for the next entry for that report.



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