Urban Horses

Very Important Meeting: Tuesday June 9th 7:00 PM Vancouver City Council Chambers The City Council is scheduled to APPROVE a proposed amendment to the development codes relating to the keeping and raising of livestock such as horses, bovine, pigs, sheep, goats, llamas etc. that will effect folks within the city limits now and those within the Urban Growth Boundary as the city annexes those areas. The 1st change is the definition of domestic animal (VMC 20.150) which currently limits this definition to dogs, cats and other pets. Under the new proposal, farm animals will be classified as a domestic animal. Some of the concerns are not directly related to the proposed changes but would come into play because of current codes for ‘dogs and cats’.

1) Domestic animals which would now include cows and horses under VMC 8.24.180 2 c requires the owner to provide a barn or other enclosed structure sufficient to protect the animal from wind, rain, snow or sun and which has adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness. Lean-to’s would not be sufficient anymore. Additionally, enclosed structures require building permits and must follow the adopted international building codes. The proposed, but not adopted, county animal control changes directed toward farm animals only require access to basic shelter for two hours per day, not enclosed and there were no acreage requirements. 2) VMC section 20.912.060 prohibits electric or barbed wire fences. There is no indication that there will be any exemptions on this requirement for cows and horses.

3) Peope that work with animal control on horse rescues believe that this change has the potential to flood animal control with ‘created’ work when they need to be out rescuing the horses that are really in need of help.

The 2nd change comes under the general requirements for land for each bovine, horse, goat, sheep, llama or similar large farm animal.

Previously the ordinance read that a minimum of one acre is required for each farm animal and an additional 10,000 square feet must be provided for the second. This now will read that a minimum of one acre is required for each and every farm animal. Section 20.930.020 allows for nonconforming use status (grand fathered uses). This lays the burden upon the property owner that they legally had the allowable number of horses on their property when under Clark County jurisdiction. The examples of proof include copies of building or land use permits or maps or some type of demonstration that the use was established before annexation. This code does not clearly establish how livestock owners will be able to prove (for example) that they had 2 horses on 1.75 acres of land. There is also an existing code that states “where a nonconforming use is discontinued or abandoned for one year, the nonconforming use status of the land shall be eliminated". This could mean that if your second horse on 1.75 acres dies or is lame you have one year to replace that horse or you will never be allowed to have two horses on your property again.

With these proposed changes in mind, these are some things that need to be addressed:

  • Stables are not allowed within the city limits. Would this mean that any established stable would not be allowed to add on to what they have and if they have a fire they would not be allowed to re-build?

  • How do we establish that we have X amount of horses on our land while in the county so that we can be grandfathered in?

  • How do we keep our cows/horses inside our property without electric fencing or barb wire?? Is the city going to specify what a "barn" or proper shelter is for each horse or cow?

From the city’s point of view, the most important question we can ask them is how does the restrictions on the present rural community equate to a diverse experience that the City of Vancouver finds important? They need to recognize that there are urban areas and rural areas within the urban growth boundary and they need to have planning regulations that recognize both types of land use. If you can’t attend or even if you do, a letter sent to Long Range Planning, attn: John Manley, Senior Planner, 487-7948, would give them some idea of where we are on this issue and that we do find it very important and not as the staff report states: John Manley’s staff has determined (these changes)... Non-Significance (DNS). This may not directly affect you and your property but I believe that it does affect the livablitly of our county and the horse community as a whole and is a meeting that everyone needs to attend.

It is especially important for those folks in the urban growth area to attend because it would be a very significant change. Check here to see if you in the UGB. And be sure to wear something horsey so they know real well who we are. Dennis and I will be wearing our cowboy hats. Remember: Tuesday June 9th at 7:00 PM Vancouver City Council Chambers Meeting agenda

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