Officials tell stables to get zoning approval Md. licenses not enough to board horses legally

August 14, 1998|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Stable owners are being asked to seek zoning approval to board horses in the heart of horse country as Baltimore County officials crack down on unlicensed animal "holding facilities."

"It's ridiculous," said Patricia Burton-Bowden, part-owner of Rainbow View Farm in Parkton, which already holds a state license for what she describes as a small boarding operation. Burton-Bowden is one of at least 10 owners who were told recently that they must not only be licensed, but also must obtain zoning approval for their boarding facilities -- an exercise that probably would cost hundreds of dollars.

"I don't know what zoning has to do with this," she said. "Most of these farms -- in fact all of them, I'm sure -- are located in very TTC rural areas. The only thing that most of these places are doing is enhancing property values."

But Arnold Jablon, director of the county's Department of Permits and Development Management, said his department is merely enforcing the law, which requires anyone who receives compensation for boarding five or more horses to have a zoning exception.

He said the department received a complaint that some operations were not licensed. Checks then showed that all of them lacked the required zoning designation.

"I feel sorry for the people," he said, but added, "We just can't close our eyes to it."

The crackdown began a few months ago after Debbie Frank, director of a horse rescue operation in the Hereford area of northern Baltimore County, called County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire's office and provided a directory of stables from a horse magazine.

"In an attempt to educate and rattle a few bureaucrats' chains, I started saying all these new places aren't licensed," she said.

Property owners who want to be licensed must apply for a "special exception" to zoning regulations, or show that the operation has been continuous since before county zoning laws were enacted in 1955.

Frank -- who said she paid $600 in legal fees nearly 30 years ago to gain zoning approval for a licensed boarding stable -- said she complained because the county is missing revenue. More importantly, she said, licensing by the county might help authorities monitor treatment of animals at stables, especially newer operations.

"These people are setting up businesses without any guidelines," she said. "Through the rescue, I'm getting problems because people don't know what they're doing.

"People go into this business. They think they can make a lot of money. They think they can become an equestrian center and they don't even know they have to worm the horses every six to eight weeks. They don't even know horses need dentists."

County animal control officials, however, said the licensing won't affect their monitoring of stables, because they only respond to complaints, said spokeswoman Karen Stott. Officials from the state Department of Agriculture, which licenses stables, conduct unannounced inspections about once a year, said inspector Beverly Raymond.

John S. Anderson, owner of the 100-acre Manor Hill Farm in Glen Arm, wonders why his state license to board horses isn't enough.

"It says you are hereby authorized to board horses, and I've been doing this for years," he said. "How many people do you have to see and how many inspectors do you have to have to board a couple of horses?"

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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