Vet clinic at Emma shot down by Pitkin County |

Vet clinic at Emma shot down by Pitkin County

Jeremy Heiman

An application to create a veterinary clinic at a rural Emma location was unanimously denied by the Pitkin County Commissioners Wednesday.

The plan, put forward by horse trainer and equestrienne Pam Fisher, would have created an operating room for such procedures as colic surgery, orthopedic surgery and advanced dentistry for horses. Fisher applied last year for permission to create the clinic inside her 30,000-square-foot riding arena and stable on a 25-acre parcel at Happy Day Ranch, near the right-angle corner on Emma Road. The clinic proposal met with much resistance from the neighbors, and a public hearing on the issue in August erupted in shouting after the commissioners refused to issue a final ruling.

Such a clinic is allowed by the zoning, but only if approved by the commissioners in a special review hearing. The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission and planning staff had recommended denial of the project. One of the reasons staff members and Fisher’s neighbors called for denial is Fisher’s alleged numerous violations of conditions of the county’s original approval allowing the construction of the giant arena.

“I believe the issue of alleged violations has been laid to rest,” Stan Clauson, the applicant’s planning consultant, told the board. He said Fisher has gone out of her way to correct the problems.

Commissioner Leslie Lamont, who made the motion to deny, said the Emma site was simply the wrong place for the clinic. She remarked that the special review provision allows the commissioners and staff to make a determination, and denial is appropriate in this case.

Clauson argued that permitting the clinic would not lead to “a McDonald’s next door and a Wal-Mart down the street.”

But Commission Chairwoman Shellie Roy Harper noted that the small number of surgeries expected annually couldn’t be expected to support the clinic or the barn economically, and applications for other commercial operations might follow.

Neighbors had told the board in previous public hearings that they feared increased traffic in their quiet rural neighborhood. Commissioner Patti Clapper offered the opinion that a home occupation, by definition in the county’s code, doesn’t allow for clients coming and going.

Citizens who supported the project maintain that allowing the clinic will promote equestrian culture in the county. As ranchers go out of business, the argument goes, horse ranches, instead of residential subdivisions, will move onto the land, resulting in the preservation of open space.

Many of those opposed to the clinic were neighborhood residents. They claimed that Fisher, who built the barn three years ago with her former husband, has been a bad neighbor since she moved onto the land, boarding horses and allowing her dogs to run at large, both of which violate the terms of the original approval.

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