Heidelberg man can keep horses on his property

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A horse is a horse, of course, of course … unless it’s housed in a settlement area, at which point it becomes something of a controversy.

Changing course from its denial of a previous request by a resident to keep a horse within an urban area, Wellesley council this week approved just such an arrangement for a Heidelberg property.

In a split decision, councillors meeting Tuesday night approved a zoning bylaw amendment to permit the housing of up to three horses and the storage of buggies at 3058 Lobsinger Line, owned by Isaac Weber. The move also reduces the usual minimum distance separation (MDS) requirements between the horse enclosure and nearby residences.

Coun. Shelley Wagner was vocal in her opposition to the plan, however.

“I do have an issue with it. I think that the Township of Wellesley has been very clear in the past with some of the decisions in regards to horses within the settlement areas. More recently, a couple of years ago, we stated it was not necessarily what we want to see. I think we’re opening up a can of worms by allowing it,” she said, noting residents should be aware of the restrictions on keeping horses if moving from the countryside into one of the villages.

“I think most people know that we have the bylaw. I think when you’re purchasing in our township, you pretty much know them.”

Mayor Joe Nowak, however, argued against a blanket restriction on horses used for transportation.

“I think you have to look at these applications on an individual basis,” said Nowak in response. “I think the one that maybe you’re referring to was a different set of circumstances. It was closer to the core area. This one, in my opinion, is back onto agricultural land; you probably won’t even see it from the road. I don’t think it’s going to have an impact on anyone in the immediate area. I don’t think it’s setting a precedent because you always deal with these things on an individual basis. And you react to the people that live around; if there’s a significant concern, you’d step back and take a closer look at it. But that isn’t the case in this situation. For that reason, I support it.”

While looking for some controls, Coun. Herb Neher downplayed the possibility the decision would set a precedent and open up the floodgates to numerous similar requests.

“To my knowledge, in the 12 years that I’ve been here, we’ve only had two situations like this,” said Neher. “So it’s not like this is an outburst where all of a sudden they’re going to invade with horse and buggies in the township. To not leave any wiggle room for people to make that choice, that decision, to say outright no in each case, I would have a problem with that, personally.”

The section of land in question is a mix of both commercial and residential properties, located near Forwell’s Variety and Stemmler’s Meats and Cheese, and close to many other residential properties. The commercial settlement zone of the property does not explicitly allow for horses or other livestock.

Director of planning Geoff VaanderBaaren proposed a set of four conditions to make the use permissible, citing the bylaws of Perth County and how it is typically dealt with there.

“The horse must be the primary means of transportation for the applicant,” said VaanderBaaren. “If this bylaw gets amended, that it’s not opening up for any type of livestock on the farm. It has to be their primary means of transportation.

“Any manure has to be stored inside the building and then removed at regular intervals. That would be in a one- to two-week timeframe, and they’d have to move it off to a farm property somewhere.  The building containing the horse and manure should be set back at least as high as the building is. We want this more or less centred on the property as far as we can from any other types of uses. As for the MDS requirement; it just can’t be net here, so we have to exempt it because it doesn’t necessarily apply. The bylaw amendment would include those four conditions that I have just gone through.”

After more deliberation, the zone change was passed 4-1.