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Carousel Ranch services will keep trotting

Board of Supervisors approves use permit for equestrian therapy program that aids disabled kids

Posted: March 26, 2009 12:59 a.m.
Updated: March 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Carousel Ranch will continue operating its equestrian therapy program for nearly 100 disabled children - thanks to a unanimous vote by county supervisors this week.

The ranch's conditional use permit - granted in December by the Regional Planning Commission - was on the table at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday after a perturbed neighbor tried to appeal it.

The board unanimously voted to deny the appeal and affirmed the Planning Commission's decision to grant the permit.

"For the kids, I can't even imagine - we purchased a very expensive piece of property here," said Carousel Ranch Executive Director Denise Tomey. "If we had all that taken away from us, because one neighbor didn't like us, it would have been unfair."

While seeking final permits, Tomey said, Carousel Ranch has been able to work out issues with all its Agua Dulce neighbors but one.

David B. Leonard, whose property borders Carousel Ranch - which is nestled against a hill in Agua Dulce - told supervisors of numerous problems he had with the ranch, including commercial trucks present on the property and a trailer that he claimed obstructs his view and "houses transients," he said.

Debbie Bragdon, one of many who showed up to defend the ranch, said she occupies the trailer and is not a transient. She is the caretaker of 18 animals at the ranch.

"I have volunteered for Carousel Ranch for four years," she said. "I am not a transient. I've lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for four years and I'm not going anywhere."

Tomey said the "transient" accusations might have come about because the ranch has housed a couple of short-term caretakers. Many of Leonard's claims were "fabrications," she said.

Jeff Fishkin, a board member and parent whose child rides in the program, testified passionately for the ranch.

"The magic that occurs at Carousel Ranch is beyond words," he said. "I think to deny the permit granted to Carousel Ranch would handcuff the miracles performed there every single day."

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich questioned a Planning Commission official about Leonard's concerns, including whether the trailer obstructed anyone's view or blocked access for anyone. The official replied, "No."

"The supervisor felt the commission had made the right decision," said Paul Novak, planning deputy for Antonovich. "It was hard to discern how the (ranch's) property was adversely impacting any neighbors."

Tomey said she is glad the issue is behind the ranch, adding that sometimes "there's people you have to agree to disagree with."

"We're very excited with the outcome and looking forward to doing what we do best, which is working the kids and spending our time on that," she said.


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