County Tables Changes in Horse-Related Regulations

by Kathleen Adams

Members of the Louisville, Ky. Metro Planning Commission were expected to discuss possible changes in land-use regulations Jan. 22 that could have far-reaching effects on commercial horse stables in Jefferson County. But instead, planning officials agreed to table discussion of the controversial proposals until a later date.

About 300 stable owners and horse enthusiasts jammed a hearing room at the Old Jail Building in downtown Louisville and broke into applause when Charles Cash, metro planning and design director, requested that voting on the Commercial Riding Academies and Stables section of the Land Development Code be deferred.

"Obviously, based on the turnout, we made a mistake," Cash said. "I propose that it be stricken from discussion until we create a work group to come up with what we ought to be saying."

Connie Ewing, the commission's spokesperson, said many of the changes are simply a matter of making routine corrections of typographical errors. She also said a working group would soon be appointed that includes representatives of the horse industry.

The working group will be asked to suggest revised text within 90 days. The revised text would then be presented at another public hearing.

Dave Hulefeld, a planning manager with Metro Planning and Design Services, said Churchill Downs wouldn't be affected by the proposed changes because it's not a riding stable or boarding facility. The Kentucky Derby Museum also wouldn't be affected.

Many who turned out for the meeting expressed concern over the proposed changes which included conditions such as "exercise tracks shall be maintained in non-dust condition at all times," and "all buildings, structures, and facilities associated with the activity shall be at least 50 feet from any property line."

Adrienne Hancock, owner of Stonehurst Riding Club in eastern Jefferson County, believes if the new regulations are passed, horse farms like hers will be forever lost.

"I'd have to sell my farm," Hancock said. "I would not be eligible for a conditional use permit because my barn, arena, and garage are 15 to 20 feet from the property line."

Hancock bought her 28-acre farm 21 years ago from John Callaway, a former owner of Thoroughbred champion John Henry. The horse spent at least a year living on the property, which has been a working horse farm for about 100 years.

Another provision requires so-called less intense stables to have at least .75 acre for each horse, and would ban viewing stands for spectators.

"I will have to think about which horses I will lose," Hancock said in reference to the 47 horses she keeps at her stable. "We mainly have show horses. With no seating, everyone will have to stand to watch their child."

Louisville realtor Sabina Chambers is worried about how the proposed changes could affect her business.

"I just sold property that was a little over six acres," she said. "It's rural residential and they were going to use it to give riding lessons. It's a young person trying to make it in the horse community, and they're going to take it away."