Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Under the Microscope

We received the Planner's packet last Thursday in the mail. Somehow we didn't know to expect this, but it was good. The immediate feedback was that the Planner was recommending the Planning Commission approve our request - with conditions of course.

The Conditions for Approval included about 20 items like you will submit a Dust Abatement plan to be reviewed by the dept of health, and the Development Standards had 35 items like you will comply with all building codes in section x.y.z in the Weld County code. We read through these items and there were 2 in particular from the Health Dept that concerned me - both about waste/manure removal. Specifically they were saying we had to have a water-seepage-proof collection container for the manure and have it hauled away at least weekly! This is just not done at stables, and I know it. Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. day, and I was very concerned that it would be a holiday, but fortunately it was not and I was able to talk to the person responsible for our application. She and I had a good discussion about our manure handling plans. She had to talk to someone else, so she ended up leaving me a message later in the day that indeed it seemed our plans would be sufficient and that she would ammend her requirements in our packet. COOL!

In the process of this back and forth with the Health Department person, we got wind of the fact that our case was scheduled in the "Consent" only section of the agenda - meaning that unless someone requested otherwise there would be no discussion about our case and the planning commission would simply vote.

This all sounds good, except that there were still a few other items in the Development standards that simply were a mis-communication regarding our intent that we really needed to get cleared up before going before the County Commissioners (like max employees needed to be 8, not 3). On the other hand, if we requested our case be opened up for a hearing, then that would give the neighbors the opportunity to comment.

We only learned of this whole Consent vs Hearing thing 4 hours or so before the meeting, and even as they were calling the meeting to order I was still trying to get feedback from our planner if we needed to fix these items today or wait. So it was that they were reading out our case and I could not decide whether to speak up or not. On one hand I wanted to see if any of the neighbors would make the request first, taking it out of my hands. On the other I knew for a fact that our neighbors to the South were there to make comment and I figured they didn't understand that they were on the verge of losing that opportunity. Finally, it was the fact that we needed these details fixed here and now that convinced me to open my mouth.

So, we were removed from the first item on the agenda, to the last. Our Planner had warned us that it was a full docket and that we might be doing dinner together if that is what happened. Fortunately several cases were deferred, so about 3:15 our case was called.

We did a reasonable job presenting our case. I think we could have been more proactive and explicit about the noise concerns we KNEW would be coming, but oh well. In total we were surprised to have 3 neighbors show up, plus a fourth faxed in a comment just before the hearing. All had no objections to the horse operations; all had strong oppositions to the dog kennel because of noise.

One commissioner was really stuck on the 80 dog limit, and it was posed to us whether we'd be open to reducing that number. I was all for jumping up and saying sure, that'd be fine. But Ginger was our appointed spokeswoman and she did a good job presenting a couple of creative options. In the end another commissioner commented that he didn't see a big difference between 60 dogs and 80, and that they'd be better off deciding on the application before them.
Lots of debate ensued. The hearing lasted about an hour and a half. The worst part was that for the majority of it we weren't able to comment - or even clarify items they were debating. Anyways, they ended up voting to pass our application on to the County Commissioners with a recommendation for approval. And NO significant restrictions on our original request!

We should have been dancing in the halls. Unfortunately we were emotionally exhausted. We did get to speak with one set of neighbors we've been meaning to meet. They were very positive and friendly. As he said - he has serious concerns over our ability to control the noise to the noise level restrictions that were placed upon us, but then he would love to have us surprise him. The big downer was that our neighbors to the south left the meeting appearing to be very upset. We're at a bit of an impass as to what to do about that. I think there isn't much we can do until we get some formal designs down regarding sound-proofing the dog barn.



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