Homeowners in Lucasville, N.S., see a hearing by a provincial agency on Wednesday as one of their last chances to deal with ongoing concerns about a local horse farm.
In 2002, Memento Farm set up an equestrian operation, also known as Goldring Stables, with about 35 horses.
The 4.2-hectare property is zoned mixed use, which means agriculture is permitted but a commercial business is not.
That didn't come to light until 2014 when the property owners, Cathy and Clayton Goldring, wanted to expand one of their buildings.
Long list of grievances from neighbours
To remedy the situation, HRM planners suggested a development agreement. A public information meeting was held in 2015.
That's when people living close to to Memento Farm aired a long list of grievances, including:
- Offensive odours and runoff from manure piles.
- The condition of the private road and dust created by traffic.
- Rodent problems.
- Noise from equestrian competitions.
"We need some manure management here," said Iris Drummond, chair of the Lucasville Community Association, who's lived in the area for 40 years. The horse farm is located behind her property.
"You just can't spread manure on rocky, swampy ground."
The minutes of the public information meeting show that Clayton Goldring explained he was unaware of any issues because he had never personally received any complaints.
In fact, Goldring told CBC News he did make changes to his manure-handling practices after that meeting — which satisfied inspectors from both the agriculture and environment departments.
"They recommended a couple of changes which I have done," said Goldring. "I have letters saying there are no problems and the file is closed."
But the Goldrings decided to pull out of the development agreement process and opted instead to eliminate any commercial aspects, such as riding lessons or equestrian events, and remain solely an agricultural operation.
That puts them in compliance with the land use bylaw, but it also means less municipal oversight when it comes to complaints.
That's in contrast to another horse operation in the community along the Lucasville Road called Restless Pines. Its development agreement was approved by the North West Community Council on April 20.
The agreement permits commercial aspects including riding lessons and equestrian events. But it also limits the number of horses on the property, outlines how often the manure has to be removed and establishes hours of operation.
Site visit, hearing to be held
Lucasville residents have now turned to the Farm Practices Review Board with new complaints about Memento Farm.
The agency was set up to prevent nuisance complaints about farm operations being taken to court, and it has the power to modify or stop a farm practice.
Board members will conduct site visits Wednesday morning and hold a hearing in the afternoon in Fall River.
"I hope the board will at least deal with the manure issue," Drummond said.
"And get the road fixed so people who live along it can enjoy their properties again. They can't do it now because of the dust."
Goldring insists there are other barns in the Lucasville area which are not following provincial manure-handling guidelines, and not being reviewed.
The councillor for the area, Lisa Blackburn, confirmed she has received about seven complaints about Memento Farm, but has never smelled any offensive odours herself.
She agrees the private road is in poor condition and said the Goldrings would like the municipality to take it over. Blackburn has been called as a witness at the Wednesday hearing.
'You're left without a voice'
Drummond is critical of the city for allowing recreational horse farms so close to residential areas in the first place, especially with the lack of rules and regulations governing their operation.
"They shouldn't be passing the buck to the provincial government," she said.
"You're left without a voice and HRM has disrespected our community."