Equestrian Committee Still Grappling With Manure Rules

The members of Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Committee delayed a decision Wednesday on recommending changes to the village’s best management practices, instead requesting more revisions.

The committee continued the meeting to Thursday, Feb. 21, when it is expected to make its final recommendation to the Wellington Village Council.

“I think we’ve taken a simple issue and made it very complicated,” Committee Chair Cynthia Gardner said.

The best management practices ordinance includes a litany of items from fertilizer regulations to treatment of horse manure.

The changes were proposed to help Wellington meet federal Environmental Protection Agency water-quality standards. They would govern how farm owners manage manure and include requiring watertight storage areas and prohibiting the spreading of untreated manure.

Committee members have been critical of some of the changes and last year postponed a recommendation until Palm Beach County passed new fertilizer regulations. But time is running out for a recommendation to the council, which must make a decision on the item in March in order to comply with the new EPA standards.

Among Gardner’s concerns were prohibition of spreading untreated manure, requiring setbacks for manure bins that could make designing a farm difficult, and requiring watertight storage.

“This is an ordinance so difficult that you’d have to hire a civil engineer to come up with a site plan,” Gardner said.

But Equestrian Master Plan Project Director Mike O’Dell said that new language has been added in to address site-specific exemptions and allow staff to work with farm owners to meet the requirements.

Gardner and other committee members were also concerned that the code did not address whether existing farms would be “grandfathered in.”

“I think that language needs to be in there,” Committee Member Myles Tashman said.

While O’Dell has pushed for composting of waste before spreading it, Gardner said it would put an unnecessary burden on farm owners.

“In Loxahatchee Groves, you have to identify where your manure is going, pay a fee and spread it within three days,” she said. “You don’t have to compost it before you spread it. I don’t know of anywhere else that requires composting.”

Furthermore, she said that it’s smaller farm owners who typically spread manure in their fields, not large barn owners, who typically have the manure hauled out.

“I think this has been taken out of hand for the few people who actually spread their manure,” she said.

But Committee Member Linda Smith Faver felt it was better to change the rules now, before they become a problem.

“If it was going to be an issue, I would be more in favor of making the rules stricter now so that we don’t have a problem later,” she said. “I think it’s important that we look to what might happen in the future.”

Tashman agreed. “One of the major goals is to grow equestrian facilities even more,” he said. “So I think it would be foolhardy not to consider trying to get more regulation, especially if we want to have 40 percent more horses than we have now.”

He noted that if existing properties would be grandfathered in, it wouldn’t be an issue.

“I think that if we are going to grandfather in existing facilities and not put a burden on them until they have to be replaced, the cost of putting in these regulations is so insignificant,” Tashman said. “I think it behooves us to do this.”

Committee members directed O’Dell to make changes to the language to address some of their concerns and return Thursday, Feb. 21 at 6:15 p.m. to discuss the item again.