Jim and Mary Pellerin just want to bring their daughter’s horse to their East Line Road home, where they have 10 acres.
When they asked for town permission, they found out Malta doesn’t have a policy covering people who want to keep a single horse in a residential area. They can’t apply until a policy is developed.
So for the last year, the Pellerins have been driving 10-year-old Samantha several times a week to a boarding stable miles away in Charlton, where her horse, Gus, is living.
When they bought the 15-year-old registered American quarter horse in May 2007, they planned to board him, but thought it would be short-term.
“We figured we’d have a few months for [Samantha] to get used to him, then after six months we’d bring him home,” Mary Pellerin said.
They applied to keep Gus on their property last October.
“I just never thought it would be a problem,” said Pellerin, who is office manager for her husband’s excavating business.
But town officials have wrestled with the question in the past.
In 2005, an effort to set town zoning standards for commercial horse farms was abandoned amid strong opposition from farm operators and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, which said the town can’t interfere with commercial farming. The question about backyard pet horses was never addressed.
The Pellerins and other horse advocates have appeared at several recent town meetings, urging backyard horses be allowed.
A public hearing will be held at 6:55 p.m. July 7 on a draft law that would allow equines to be kept in the residential zones where they aren’t now allowed. It would let people like the Pellerins keep a horse after obtaining a special-use permit from the town Planning Board.
Town officials said they want to support rural agriculture as the town grows more suburban, but not cause problems for neighbors.
“We want small horse farms in our town,” Town Supervisor Paul Sausville said at a meeting last week.
There’s consensus that keeping a horse should require at least three acres. Still being discussed are what the minimum setbacks from neighboring properties should be, and what information the town needs about things like manure management.
The Planning and Zoning Update Committee, chaired by Councilman Peter Klotz, recommended requiring a topographic survey, horse management plan and manure removal plan as part of every application. However, the Town Board majority is leaning toward demanding less information initially and letting the Planning Board decide what issues to address in specific cases.
“The Planning Board has to be consistent. It can work if the Planning Board continues to do a conscientious job,” Klotz said.
Saratoga County has more horses than any county in the state, and commercial horse farms are a growing part of the countryside landscape. The question of what to do when families want one or two horses of their own has already been addressed in at least a half-dozen other county towns.
Some have standing zoning rules allowing people in rural residential areas to have one horse for every acre, though the formula varies somewhat from town to town, said Jaime O’Neill, a Saratoga County planner.
“It doesn’t come up in other towns because most already allow for large animals in their rural residential zones,” O’Neill said.
The town and county planning boards still must review Malta’s proposal, but those reviews are expected to happen during June, so the Town Board can act in July.
Mary Pellerin said she’s encouraged, and the family intends to remain patient.
“I understand they need to protect themselves, that it’s an R-1 district and you don’t want horses in a subdivision,” Pellerin said.
The Pellerin property, while zoned R-1, isn’t in a subdivision. Their 10.2 acre property backs onto the Zim Smith recreation trail, and land across the street, in the town of Ballston, is a permanent nature preserve.
The Pellerins plan is to clear some of the woods for pasture. Two or three acres would be fenced for Gus’s use.
The family doesn’t want to rule out getting a second horse if Gus is lonely, Pellerin said.
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Categories: Schenectady County