Bucks Writs - Fall 2019 - 26


By Nancy Larkin Taylor, Esquire
One recent Thursday night I had a chance to visit the
new Doylestown Township Municipal building. It is
lovely, clean and airy. I look forward to paying my
taxes in that artful lobby. The Supervisors Hearing
room décor is "modern rustic" with a vaulted barn
ceiling, very Bucks County. The acoustics had not yet
caught up to the renovations. In other words, the
mics did not work yet. The two matters scheduled
that evening had drawn a fairly large crowd, but few
of the audience could hear what was being said.
Despite this, the Zoning Board heard testimony
from a township resident, one of my back yard
catty-corner neighbors, who was seeking a variance
to allow her to house two miniature ponies in her
backyard four weeks a year. Apparently companion
horses need time to get accustomed to living in
a neighborhood so they can bond better with
their new human partner. The applicants own less
than an acre of land. Under the Zoning Ordinance
livestock, which ponies are, requires five acres.

We all advocate for our own
agendas. Unconsciously, we present
our perspectives in a light most
favorable to our position on any
issue. Which is why a site visit in
this case is crucial.
The Zoning Board agreed, at her request, to schedule a
site visit before taking further action. I found that to be a
brilliant idea. Rather than watch several neighbors testify in
opposition to the plan, using diagrams to describe how close
their houses are in relation to the new barn or how wide the
creek runs, Zoning officers can see for themselves.

The variance proponents introduced photos and
maps of the property, photos of her Dad with
the ponies, a photo of the two ponies, Cheyanne
and Julia, kissing. They noted that while this is a
residential neighborhood, the presence of animals
can bring people together and perhaps some neighborhood teenagers might learn to care for them.
With genuine enthusiasm, they promised to remove
manure from the property twice a week, keep it in
a covered container between pick-ups, change the
shavings in the corral when it rained and make sure
the paddock floor was covered with two inches of
shavings at all times.

It is impossible to convey with words how dense "woods"
are or describe what is visible from a neighbor's yard at
a certain time of year. A curb side picture shows only a
90-degree view of the property.
We all advocate for our own agendas. Unconsciously, we
present our perspectives in a light most favorable to our
position on any issue. Which is why a site visit in this case is
crucial. For the officers to see with their own eyes, measure
distances with their own strides, smell the barn and see the
corral up close is an efficient way to gather information,
more efficient than listening to a trail of witnesses. After a
couple hours of testimony, no one cares. Everyone just wants
the hearing to end. A site visit takes half the time.

The property owners suggested that the run off in
the creek separating them from the back neighbors
was already compromised by the elimination habits
of large neighborhood dogs, mulch and various
pesticides. They opined that neighbors would not be
negatively affected by the presence of two ponies
four weeks a year since two ponies urinate much
less in four weeks than dogs do in a year. They even
quoted the comparable liter volumes.

Kudos to the Zoning Board for agreeing to "walk the crime
scene." However the Board decides, I applaud their understanding that while a picture is worth a thousand words, a
site visit is worth a million. 



Bucks Writs - Fall 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Bucks Writs - Fall 2019

Bucks Writs - Fall 2019 - 1
Bucks Writs - Fall 2019 - 2
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