Tuesday, November 26, 2013
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Guidelines for horse stables in Lincoln set for council review

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[November 26, 2013]  Last Thursday evening the Lincoln Planning Commission met to discuss guidelines that would allow a horse stable inside city limits.

The need to discuss this was the result of a request by Patrick and April Doolin, who would build a stable and house horses on their property located just off North Union Street.

When the Doolins purchased the property along Union and developed a new housing addition facing Union, they held back approximately 23 acres on the far side of the property for their own homestead.

The Doolins first approached the zoning board of appeals in late October. They were asking then for ordinance variances that would allow them to build a stable, and furthermore to make that stable taller than is currently allowed in the city of Lincoln.

It was discovered less than an hour before the meeting began that the zoning board of appeals did not have the authority to make a rule on allowing the stable or horse barn. What they could do was make the exception on the height requirement.

At that meeting there were several Union Street residents who voiced their objections to having the stables on their street. Patrick Doolin fielded questions from the group, and Thursday evening he told the plan commission that there had been additional discussions with the residents after that meeting. He said the group had not been so much in objection to the construction of the stable as they were concerned about how it would be done and how it would affect the immediate neighborhood. Doolin said he believed the residents of Union had their concerns addressed and were no longer objecting to the construction of the barn.

At the beginning of the Thursday night meeting, building and zoning officer John Lebegue explained that what was being sought was a special use code for the R-1 residential districts.

He said there are very few areas in the city of Lincoln that are coded R-1, so adding the use to that particular zone would aid in limiting the number of people who would qualify to put horses on their property. Lebegue said this was important because the city wanted to be very careful not to open a door that would lead to a bigger problem in the future.

He also told the group that he had contacted a few communities in the Chicago area, where horse stables inside city limits are commonplace. He said that in the community of Palos Hills, for example, there are several, and they are not only accepted but considered to be a unique and interesting aspect of that community.

However, Lebegue continually cautioned the commission throughout the evening to be very specific in what they will allow, so as to ward off future problems.

Patrick and April Doolin were on hand to discuss the plans for their horse farm with the commission. They brought with them an architectural rendering done by landscape architects Massie Massie & Associates of Springfield, which outlined specifically how the horse farm would be laid out.

Of the 23 acres, 18 will be used for their homestead. The layout includes three pastures for rotation, an outdoor riding arena, the stable, their home and a pond.

Patrick Doolin told the group that the horses he plans to have on his property will be treated as family pets. To clarify that, he was asked if there would be any breeding taking place on the farm specifically for horse production, and he said there would not.

He did tell the group that it has been discussed that in the adjoining subdivision, also owned by the Doolins, there might be lots that are offered as part of an equestrian village. However, he said those plans were not concrete.

The members of the commission discussed the size of the pastures and whether there was enough space to accommodate a number of horses. The Doolins are planning a six-stall barn, though they currently own only one horse.

After some online research, one of the commission members said the consensus seemed to be that there needed to be 1.5 acres of pasture per horse on the property. April Doolin said the three pasture areas would total approximately 10 acres, which would be precisely right for six horses.

Cliff Marble of the commission wondered if the property was going to be accessible for fire trucks and if the Doolins planned to use city water and sewer.

Patrick Doolin said the homestead would probably have city water, but not city sewer. He said the reason was the property was too far from the main sewer line, so a septic system would be installed. He expanded by saying a well will be dug for the horse barn, but if the water is good, the household might use it also.

Marble wondered about the use of water in case of a fire, and Doolin said that was the reason the plans for the farm include a pond that water can be drawn from.

Marble asked about whether the road would support the weight of a fire truck. Doolin said right now there is a construction road in place, and it will support the weight of a fire truck. In addition, he said when the homestead is finished, a paved surface will be laid for the road, and it would be designed to handle the weight as well.

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Marble also wondered about runoff from the pastures into Brainard's Branch. The Doolins showed on their drawing that there will be a natural grass barrier between their pastures and Brainard's Branch. April Doolin said it would help filter the runoff. In addition, she said with the rotation of pastures, there won't be problems with grass destruction and mud. In addition, manure in the pastures will be collected as needed.

It was also pointed out that currently the ground in question is farmland, where there have in the past been applications of fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides. With the establishment of the pastures, none of those products will be used. It was also brought up that Brainard's Branch is not a source of drinking water in Lincoln.

Another point that was brought up questioned if there is a 100-year flood plain along the branch. April Doolin pointed out that the land that will be used for the horse farm is above the flood plain and the grass barrier is in it.

As the commission prepared to outline a recommendation for a special use allowance, some wondered if this would open the door to other kinds of animals. Lebegue said he didn't believe it should be done in such a manner as to allow that. He told the commission the amendment should be for horses only and that the parameters should be very specific.

In the specifications for the special use classification, the commission established the following:

  • Horses shall only be allowed in residential areas zoned R-1, and the lot shall be no less than 10 acres total.

  • The lot shall include no less than 1.5 acres for each horse on the premises and shall allow no more than six horses on any property.

  • The stable or paddock building must be placed at least 300 feet from any residential building on contiguous or neighboring lots.

  • No stable or paddock shall be placed in the front yard of a dwelling or within 15 feet of any property line.

  • No stable shall be placed within 50 feet of the principal dwelling on the property.

  • Stables shall not be placed in a location until it has been certified that waste from the stables will not contaminate any water supply used for human consumption and that the location will not allow offensive or noxious animal waste, solid or liquids, to leach, drain or run over the surface of any contiguous or neighboring lots.

  • Excrement shall be removed from the property or placed in a contained composting system.

  • No business activities may be conducted on the premises other than housing, boarding, grooming, exercising and caring for the permitted number of horses.

Some other discussion that took place involved the composting. April Doolin said a confined composting system would be used at the farm and there would be no odor.

Another discussion took place regarding what would happen if the Doolins had six horses on hand and one foaled, making seven. It was decided to treat this as the local hospital does. At Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, a new baby does not count as a bed occupant. It was determined that a foal would not count as an occupant until it is weaned. Once the foal is weaned, then at least one animal would have to leave the farm.

The Doolins also pointed out that they hope to have a riding instructor come from out of town to give their kids riding lessons. They talked about allowing the instructor to use their farm to provide lessons for other riders in the Lincoln area. They wondered if the way the special use was written would consider that as a business on their property.

It was determined by the council that this would not qualify as a business on the property, but they also added wording to the business exemption paragraph to make it acceptable.

The commission approved the request for special use, but the language must still be approved by the Lincoln City Council before the special use can be granted. It is expected that the topic will come up in a city committee workshop possibly as early as Tuesday night.


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