Panel refuses to back exception for riding club Tension surfaces during a hearing

January 30, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Tension over a horse operation in a Fulton community surfaced during a hearing this week.

The Howard County Planning Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to recommend denial of a special exception for a nonprofit riding club on a 5.94-acre site on Reservoir Road.

The five-member board agreed that the horse facility -- which has been in operation since 1996 -- does not fit the character of the surrounding residential neighborhood. A special exception is required because the site is zoned residential, not commercial.

After the vote, members of Hunter Crest Riding Club & Horse Rescue Corp., which applied for the special exception, and a family that lives next door to the operation exchanged heated words.

Ed Fincher, who represented the riding club, noted that the vote is only a recommendation because the final decision rests with the Board of Appeals, which has not set a hearing date on the matter.

"The board's decision is basically their judgment," Fincher said. "We'll take this to the Board of Appeals."

The horse operation is on property owned by Judith M. Grewell. Fincher told the board that his organization buys mistreated horses, rehabilitates them and sells them. To pay for medicine and food, Fincher said, the club charges visitors for riding lessons and instruction in a riding ring that would be open Monday through Thursday afternoons.

"We've gone out of our way trying to be good neighbors," Fincher said, pointing out that, to keep down dust, the club has laid down sand instead of dirt in the ring and purchased a $1,000 watering system.

But Shannon Altman, whose family lives next door to the site, voiced her family's opposition to the plan. Altman told the board that dust from the ring covers nearby cars and prevents neighbors from opening their windows during the summer.

Altman also said the club's visitors park their cars on her family's property and drive too fast on the driveway shared by her family and Grewell.

"There are all these ruts on our side of the driveway," Altman said. "And their clients leave our driveway at such an extreme rate of speed that they pose a danger to the children in the neighborhood."

Bob Lalush, a planner with the Department of Planning and Zoning, recommended denial because the organization's policy of charging riders makes it a commercial operation, not a nonprofit club.

Board member Joan Lancos said a commercial entity does not belong in a residential community.

"There are houses right there adjacent to all this activity," she said. "Having a stream of visitors coming in and out seems out of context in this particular neighborhood."

Pub Date: 1/30/98

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