The horses are gone from Manor Road, and the uproar they sparked has died down. But a horse ordinance created as a result of the controversy — with potential fines of $100 to $250 a day for violators — is still on the town’s to-do list.

A draft ordinance to more closely govern “keeping of horses on residential property 1.5 acres or less” has been scheduled for a public hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 in town hall.

“I support it, spent a lot of time on it,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

The proposed ordinance was created by a ‘horse committee’ Marconi worked with, which included both horse owners and neighbors concerned about horses, horse odors and the like.

“A lot of discussion, at times pretty lively,” Marconi said at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Sept. 6.

The committee had been created in the wake of a long, loud public hearing for an earlier draft of a regulation Marconi had come up with in response to complaints about three horses being kept on a relatively small parcel off Manor Road.

“The original one I drafted and presented, everyone said ‘Oh, my god, it doesn’t have to be that restrictive!’” Marconi said.

The previous hearing attracted not only Manor Road neighbors, but also horse owners from around the town, and the committee that has been working on the redrafted regulation regulation reflects that mix.

The Manor Road situation has eased.

“The individual removed the horses and placed them in facilities with proper care for horses, to the best of my knowledge,” Marconi said. “I don’t know where they went, but they are no longer on Manor Road.”

Do we need this?

When the new draft was presented at the Sept. 6 selectmen’s meeting, Marconi said some of those involved — such as veterinarian and horse owner Dr. Jeffrey Hubshire — questioned continuing to advance the draft ordinance, after the Manor Road situation seemed resolved by removal of the horses there.

“He felt the problem’s gone away, why do we need an ordinance,” Marconi said of Dr. Hubshire.

Others supported continuing to pursue an ordinance.

“Some felt ponies, donkeys and mules should be added,” Marconi said.

“The issue of fencing, manure and clean-up, that would be the case with any large animal,” said Tom Pesce, a Lewis Drive resident who was leader of neighborhood opposition to the keeping of horses on Manor Road.

Pesce added that the ordinance was written so that it wouldn’t be a burden on people who have horses and have been caring for them without problems.

“We built in that we’d be grandfathering anyone who’d been in good graces for five years,” he said.

Impact on values

Selectwoman Barbara Manners wondered about having the grandfather clause written so that a new property owner would take on a previous owner’s status.

“Why does it run with the land?” she said.

“We don’t want to have an impact on values,” Marconi said.

Pesce said the ordinance was designed to serve the interests of both horse owners and their neighbors.

“The issue here is to protect both,” he said.

“I’m kind of happy the community came together from different perspectives,” said Selectman Steve Zemo.

Requirements

The proposed ordinance would “regulate the management of horses and horse waste on properties of 1.5 acres of less.”

The proposed rule’s grandfather clause says “any owner who has successfully maintained horses for five or more years” would be exempt.

“If you have a horse on an acre, technically you’d be illegal the date of passage, if this were to pass,” Marconi said. “So what we’re doing is exempting those people who have horses today from compliance with this ordinance at this point in time.”

Significant requirements of the proposal are:

  • A minimum “usable lot area” of at least one-half acre “that will be used solely for the keeping of horses and that contains no steep slopes or significant rock outcroppings.”
  • A “run-in shed or enclosed building” that is “sized to simultaneously accommodate all the horses on the property.“
  • Fencing “installed and maintained to safely contain the horses on the property” with two design options.
  • “Manure shall be collected frequently from all areas and regularly removed from the property to maintain a sanitary condition and minimize odor, dust-producing substances and waste so as to prevent any health hazard, pollutants, disturbance or nuisance conditions with respect to neighboring properties … The setback for the manure pile shall be a minimum of 15 feet from any property line…”
  • Property owners who receive written orders from the Director of Health pertaining to the manner their horses are kept, who do not appeal within three days or comply within 30 days, would be subject to “a civil penalty of not less than $100 or more than $250 per day for each day the violation persists…”

Too vague?

Some at the selectmen’s meeting wondered if some of wording — such as a requirement that manure be “collected frequently” and “removed regularly” — might be too vague.

Horse owner Paula Schmidt replied that the committee sought to avoid rules that were to specific and rigid, while still creating a standard from which enforcement could proceed if horses weren’t being well kept.

“I get that manure pile removed off the property every six weeks,” Schmidt said. “Some people use a dumpster.”

Marconi said the new proposed regulation was the result of an effort by both horse owners and their neighbors.

“This is more of a collaborative or negotiated settlement,” Marconi said.  

To be adopted, the proposed ordinance would have to be approved first by voters at a town meeting.

“It’s basically going to be up to us,” Marconi said.