SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend approval of a conditional use permit for a proposed equine veterinary clinic north of Big Horn at its meeting Thursday — with a change to approve only phase one of the request.
County staff recommended approval of the CUP with seven conditions. County commissioners will consider the permit at their meeting May 6.
While only phase one of the CUP was recommended for approval by Planning and Zoning commissioners, the county commissioners will consider the full three-phase request and can choose to follow the recommendation, make amendments of their own or grant full approval.
The original CUP request made by Galen and Andrea Voss proposed three phases of development, county Planner Mark Reid said. The equine clinic will be operated by Dr. Andy Walker, who has operated a mobile equine clinic for 18 years.
In the first phase proposed, Walker would utilize existing sheds and structures for his business and would live in the residence on the property. This would involve converting a 3,500-square-foot equipment shed and attached loafing shed into diagnostic and treatment areas with the addition of horse stocks and rubber matting.
The first phase will also include placement of an ADA accessible portable bathroom outside the structure.
Walker said if he was able to purchase the property or enter a long-term lease, he would like to add a few barns and arenas in order to expand clinic services, including longer term treatment and rehabilitation utilizing the ideal natural setting.
The first addition in phase two would be a covered round pen where Walker could observe horses in their natural gait in a consistent and repeatable environment for quick and accurate diagnosis. After that, specifics on barns and arenas, other than possible sizes and locations, were not laid out in the CUP request.
Phase three would include the addition of a covered 150-by-250 foot riding arena for use as a riding academy for able-bodied adults and a therapeutic riding program for adults and children with musculoskeletal disabilities, such as CHAPS or REINS.
Walker said phases two and three would occur several years down the road as his business grows and he is able to expand.
“I would like to see whatever facilities we are able to build used for therapeutic purposes, otherwise it will sit empty,” Walker said.
A few nearby residents submitted letters and spoke at the meeting, both for and against the proposed vet clinic.
“I bought my house in a residential area, and I’d like to keep it that way,” Jim Valentine said at the meeting.
Valentine lives directly across from the proposed clinic and is mainly concerned with the commercial aspect of phase three, especially noise and increased traffic on Highway 335.
Neighbors Ken and Debbi Collier expressed similar concerns in a letter. They also noted that the number of buildings and horses proposed to eventually be on the property is too high of density in a 29-acre parcel. They also expressed worry about contamination of nearby Little Goose Creek.
Nearby residents Chris and Jenna Lawler and Lauren DeLapp also urged denial of the request in letters submitted to the Sheridan County Public Works department after preparation of the staff report.
Jim and Dee Clifton wrote in support, and Doug Madison spoke in support at the meeting, comparing the property to the Bischoff Veterinary Clinic on Loucks Avenue in Sheridan.
“A horse veterinarian is very appropriate for the property,” Madison said. “I speak in favor because I don’t know if there’s a more suitable use for the property.”
All four planning commissioners who were present agreed that phase one was appropriate, but that it was hasty to approve phases two and three when they were not well-defined. Commissioner Steve Noecker made an amended motion to approve only phase one of the CUP with four conditions including building permits for modifications to existing structures, shielded lighting, signage appropriate for a “home occupation” and that porta potty usage be limited to one year before a restroom with on-site sewage be built.
In other business, Reid said that county commissioners will consider a notice of intent April 15 to delete all references to “public facility” within the counties zoning regulations because public facilities are not a permitted use in any zoning district.
It was also noted that Commissioner Jeremy Smith’s term will expire June 30, so there is a vacancy to be filled on the commission.