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SAN DIEGO — Two years after San Diego County horse-owners lobbied county officials to revamp an onerous countywide ordinance, the revised rules are on the homestretch, say county officials.

Headed by Carl Stiehl, county planners are finalizing the draft ordinance as well as an environmental impact report as it enteres a 45-day public review period.

The tiered equine ordinance can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/32A_NT_SD.

Pro-ordinance County Supervisor Dianne Jacob says horse owners and small boarding stables have been saddled with unreasonable zoning regulations and excessive fees for far too long.

“When it comes to allowing stables, we need to take a more sensible, tiered approach so more people can take part in equine activities,” she said.

The county is doing exactly that, making it easier — and in many instances, cost-free — to obtain permits for horse operations in unincorporated regions.

“San Diego County is horse country,” Jacob said. “As a former horse owner and longtime rider, I think these changes will also strengthen the economic vitality of our rural areas.”

The revised regulations proposed as an amendment to the county zoning ordinance establishes tiers that correspond to the intensity of boarding and use. As use and the number of horses increase, so do permit obligations. The existing ordinance, written in the 1970s, was a one-size-fits-all that mandated most stables obtain a major use permit that could cost up to $60,000 or more.

Grassroots organizations like the San Diego Equestrian Foundation, formed by Michell Anne Kimball of Escondido, lobbied the county to review and relax the regulations. Timing proved perfect, as it was the same year then-board chairman Bill Horn made reducing red tape one of the county’s primary goals.

“The restrictions are hampering an industry vital to rural communities,” said Horn, who along with Jacob pushed for the changes.

The process leading to those recommendations has been overseen by Stiehl, a county land-use planner who has worked hands-on with equestrians countywide.

“We’re going to be the first large county in Southern California not to require a major-use permit,” Stiehl said. “This will definitely position us as one of the least restrictive counties.”

Lori Riis, who now operates Rancho Los Amigos in the South Bay area, was unsuccessful in the mid-1980s in her quest to obtain a permit necessary for a 50-horse stabling operation in north San Diego County, spending nearly $100,000 at the time. In an interview with the San Diego UT Newspaper, she said if she were seeking the same permit she was denied years ago, it would cost her about $1,000 under the revised county equine ordinance due for adoption this summer.

“It’s going to make a tremendous difference,” Riis said of the new ordinance. “I didn’t think it was ever going to be possible.”

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