Neighbors oppose Rocheport resident's plan for horse camp

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | 7:37 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Deb Diller told Boone County commissioners Tuesday night that a permit from the county would be the next step toward fulfilling her lifelong dream of sharing her property and her knowledge of horses.

Several of Diller’s neighbors, however, told the commission that issuing the conditional use permit, which would allow Diller to continue and expand her Horsin' Around horsemanship business, could become a nightmare for them.

When Diller moved to her property on Boothe Lane in Rocheport seven years ago, she began to remodel the property to help start Horsin’ Around. 

“It’s taken a lot of years of thinking and planning," Diller said. "This is a long-range business plan — a retirement plan — that will grow over time.”

Diller has built a barn, a covered arena, stalls and other horse amenities with the idea of accommodating summer camps, birthday parties, boarding horses and year-round riding.

Merrilee Barta, a neighbor of Diller's, told the commission that she used to look out her kitchen window and see a panorama of natural landscape. Now, she said, she sees a large steel barn atop the highest point in the neighborhood.

“These facilities are a detriment to our property values,” Barta said.

Another neighbor, Scott Greathouse, said the covered arena has a “monolithic industrial appearance.”

The most common concern among Diller’s neighbors was maintenance of the driveway that four residents, including Diller, share. On Tuesday night, Diller's three neighbors asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to require that the driveway be brought up to county standards to address potholes, dust and the extra traffic caused by the camps and lessons.

Diller said she never meant to displease neighbors and is only trying to provide a place for children to experience real country camping and to learn about horses and other animals.

Blaine Forshee, 10, a fourth-grader at Rock Bridge Elementary School, went to Diller’s summer camp last year. He said it was there that he fell in love with horsemanship. He still takes private lessons at Horsin’ Around.

Tuesday night, he wrote a short statement and read it to the commission. “Mrs. Diller will not just teach you to mount a saddle and ride a horse, but she’ll also teach you about horses’ feelings and how to understand them.”

Todd Burke, who has worked as a firefighter, emergency responder, policeman and home-protection instructor, said his two daughters attended Diller’s summer camps.

“My girls are probably wise beyond their years because of what Daddy does,” Burke said. “The strongest thing I can say is that I trust Deb Diller with my kids.”

Diller has put more money into Horsin’ Around than she cared to say, and she admits she hasn’t done everything perfectly. It wasn't until she received a notice from the county that she learned she needed a permit to operate the horse camp.

After nearly two hours of discussion, commissioners tabled the issue until March 30. "There's just too much information here to take in right now," Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said, adding she would talk with Diller and neighbors in the meantime to seek a compromise.

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