Thursday, March 17, 2011

Emerging Issues in Equine Land Protection - Full Article

By: Deb Balliet, CEO Equestrian Land Conservation Resource

Just outside of Boston (MA), neighbors challenged a property owner’s plans to build a private, 22-stall training stable with an indoor arena and paddocks. They alleged the plans would jeopardize the public water supply, adjacent conservation land, and present a significant fire hazard to the neighborhood. The neighbors were vocal, well-funded and “lawyered up.”

The property owner spent in excess of $70,000 to defend their plans. At this writing, the facility was approved by the Conservation Commission, Planning Board and Board of Health but with over 76 special conditions to be met, including a sprinkler system with an estimated cost of $100,000 for the barn. Many of the conditions are onerous and costly; some are conflicting.

This situation is not as rare as you would expect.

An Increasingly Urban Citizenry

Increasingly, the roots of our fellow citizens are urban or suburban, not rural. People are fearful of horses because of their size, a lack of information, and unfamiliarity with the animal. These fears include the spread of disease and physical harm. However, in some cases, they are not actually afraid; they are exploiting and exaggerating isolated negative events in typical “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) behavior. NIMBY is often simple reluctance to accept change and an attempt to maintain the status quo in a community by manipulating individuals through fear. NIMBY is usually encountered in planning for projects such as hazardous waste facilities or “halfway” houses. However, we are finding that equestrian facilities fall in the same category as these other projects as horses and their environment is more distant and less familiar to most people.

Education is part of the solution...

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