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Proposed equestrian center on hold

By August 14, 2012

A proposal to establish an equestrian center in the Rescue area was continued by the El Dorado County Planning Commission on July 26 after multiple objections from local residents and a request by the developer to hear the project at a later date.

The developer of the equestrian facility, Dennis Graham, had asked the Planning Commission to rezone 46 of the 146 acre site from RE-5/RE-10 to Recreational Facilities and to grant him a special use permit to establish an equestrian facility on the property. The zoning on the other 100 acres would remain unchanged. The property is located on the south side of Green Valley Road, at the intersection with Deer Valley Road.

The equestrian center, when built out, would include two covered arenas, stall barns for 420 horses, five fenced riding areas, an equestrian retail store/office/clubhouse, guest cottages, camping for horse trailers during events, special events with up to 250 spectators, and a 32 square-foot lighted monument sign.

Multiple residents in the area submitted letters and e-mails or voiced objections to the project at the planning commission meeting.

Ron Thompson, who works for Rescue Union School District, said he was concerned that naturally occurring asbestos in the ground would be exposed during grading operations. He said he hoped grading plans included a program to monitor and test for asbestos.

Ellen Van Dyke complained that the mitigated negative declaration on the project did not adequately address impacts on traffic, noise, and biological resources and that an Environmental Impact Report was needed. “Horses will kick up the asbestos and it can’t be mitigated,” she said.  She also worried about removal of trees on the property. “This will affect the rural character of the area.”

Mike Diaz, who lives in Green Springs Ranch, said more studies were needed because of unanswered questions about traffic congestion, water quality, odors, and noise. “Our quality of life will be impacted tremendously and residents don’t want that to happen,” he said. Diaz also worried how the project would affect his ability to sell his property later if he chose. “Would you want this in your neighborhood?” he asked.

George Brown claimed that when the project was originally shown to residents several years ago it was only one-tenth of its current size. He said he was concerned about the additional traffic the project would generate and the potential for more accidents. He noted that another project in the area, the subdivision of the Dixon Ranch and the addition of 709 new homes, would only compound traffic problems in the area.

Realtor Natalie Piatt said “people are thinking about selling because of the noise and other concerns. Many didn’t know about this proposal.”

Rita Moeller said she thought the facility and horses would generate a lot of flies and worried about the financial viability of the project. She suggested that if the equestrian center were unsuccessful, the property might be put to other recreational uses because the special use permit stays with the property.

Moeller went on to list other objections including noise from the campers and PA system, increased traffic as truckloads of manure are hauled out of the facility on a regular basis, contamination of the creek, and flies and odors from 420 horses. “When this was brought to us 10 years ago it was a much smaller project,” she said.

In response, Graham said there was a misunderstanding about how the equestrian center would operate. He said manure would be removed daily from the stalls. He also said there were a lot of studies that have addressed the issues brought up by residents and “I have a lot of experience mitigating flies,” he said.

Graham said the project would not happen all at once but instead be built over a number a years so there would not be 420 horses at the facility initially. “There are no speakers or music,” he said, “and horse shows would end by 6 p.m.”

Faced with a lengthy list of issues, the commission voted to continue the item off calendar until all of the impacts brought up by residents can be addressed.

In the meantime, Graham plans to hold at least one meeting with residents to discuss the project. One community meeting is already scheduled for Aug. 9 but Graham said the place and time have not yet been determined.

Dawn Hodson


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