Horse owners are hailing a proposal to allow homeowners to raise the animals on two acres in a residential zone, rather than the required minimum of five acres. But some contend the change does not provide a big enough buffer for those who want to live in a strictly residential neighborhood, free of farm animals.
"I moved to town for the country setting," Maggie Parham told Planning & Zoning Commission members during a public hearing on the draft zoning regulations last week. "When I take my horses out, teenagers give me high fives and men and women say it reminds them of what Monroe used to be."
People often say, "What a beautiful sight!" and stop to pet Parham's horse, she said.
"Two acres is plenty," she said of the proposed revision. "I thank you very much for including it in the draft."
Not everyone who spoke at the hearing supports allowing horses on smaller lots, including former first selectman, Karen Burnaska, who asked the Planning & Zoning Commission to repeal the change.
"My husband and I have lived in Monroe since 1975," Burnaska said. "We've seen a lot of change in that time and a lot of successful efforts to retain the characteristics that make Monroe a unique community in which to live. We purchased our home in a residential area, as did most of our neighbors — and live on two acres of land."
Burnaska said there are several stables less than a mile from her home, adding lots were combined to make those properties meet the current five-acre requirement.
"The current regulations allow a proper buffer between properties of those residents wishing to have farm animals and those who wish to live in a strictly residential area," she said.
Under the proposal (Article 3, Section 3, Subsection 3.1.4 Accessory Uses in Residential and Farming Zones), two animals weighing over 500 pounds are allowed for the first two acres and an additional 500 pound animal for each additional acre.
It would also allow other livestock like fowl: Four under 500 pounds for the first two acres and two animals for each additional acre.
'It's Back to Nature'
With the exception of Burnaska, everyone who decided to speak at last Wednesday's hearing expressed support for allowing horses on two acres.
Ronald and Gail Bunovsky told the commission that girls who are not into sports can benefit from riding and caring for horses, like their daughter had.
Debbie Nielsen told the commission she owns a horse and uses "much less than even one acre to house" her animal.
"A neighbor uses the manure for his landscaping business and another neighbor uses the compost to grow her vegetables for the farmers' market," Nielsen said.
She said horse owners help some businesses in Monroe such as Benedict's Home and Garden by buying the supplies.
Fellow horse owner, Kelly Fitch, is the animal control officer in Easton, which allows horses on one-acre properties — though Fitch told the commission she believes that is "a little small". Fitch, who grew up in Monroe, spoke in favor of allowing horses on two acres.
"My father wanted us to live in the country," she said. "It's good to have cows and chickens. It's back to nature. Got to get kids off that iPad."