VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) — Clark County’s equestrian community says recent county code enforcements are targeting stables and threatening the industry with unrealistic standards that will force stables to close and impact horse owners, riders and other businesses.
More than 150 people packed into Tuesday night’s county council meeting to share concerns before councilors.
It comes as Clark County recently started cracking down on equestrian stables and horse-related businesses operating without proper permits.
County leaders told FOX 12 that code enforcement started investigating properties about a year ago, after an uptick in neighbor complaints about added traffic, dust and noise generated from busy stables and barns catering to boarding, lessons and other horse activities. So far, the code department has responded to four complaints, according to the county.
Some stable owners said they’ve received letters from the county advising that they’ll have to meet certain code requirements for urban livestock that were put in place in 2012.
Stable owner Amy Vesneske said the requirements are not only expensive but are unfeasible for small, family-owned businesses.
“The county is now saying that our barns need to be to the code that a Walmart or McDonald’s is and that’s called a ‘Type Two Site Plan,’ which is an extremely expensive venture,” Vesneske said.
“There’s not a single barn in Clark County to board your horse at or to take a riding lesson at, that’s up to code,” Vesneske added.
Horse lovers young and old addressed the council, asking the county to work with the equestrian community to come up with a more achievable solution.
Hazel Ferber, a young horse owner from Camas, said she boards two horses at a stable.
“If it wasn’t for horses and boarding facilities, I would not have had these joyful experiences and fun times with these animals,” Hazel said.
Roger Sturdevant owns an equestrian facility with his wife in Woodland.
Sturdevant said he’s paid more than $3,000 in administrative fees to start bringing R&R Equestrian Center up to code, only to find out he’ll need a more expensive and extensive permitting process.
“We’re told we would have to have sprinkler systems in all the barns, we’d have to have building permits for all the existing buildings,” Sturdevant said. “The list goes on and on…We’re farmers, we don’t make money. We’re lucky to pay for the hay and the mortgage at the end of the month.”
Sturdevant said he and his wife opened the stable a year ago and haven’t made any money off it. He said bringing the facility up to code will force them to close.
“My wife and I cashed out our (401k’s) to buy this farm because it was her lifelong dream and now Clark County wants to crush it,” Sturdevant said.
Equestrian community members also spoke of impacts stretching beyond the pastures – saying that stable closures would also hurt horse trainers, veterinarians, local feed stores and horse owners who don’t have their own land.
Several people got emotional when they testified about the therapeutic benefits of riding.
“(It’s going to hurt) the little girl that wants to go take riding lessons, it’s going to impact veterans that are using horses for therapeutic purposes, kids with disabilities,” Vesneske said. “I’m really just hoping that the county’s willing to work with us and help us achieve an obtainable code, so we can all be lawfully playing with our horses.”
County leaders said they want to work with the equestrian community to come up with a feasible solution.
In an email, Code Administrative Director Mitch Nickolds told FOX 12 that the county hopes to “suggest a collaborative process to bring folks from all side together to work out mutually agreeable and reasonable permitting alternative that can be presented to Clark County Council as recommendations for future code changes.”
Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.