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Milton leaders push efforts to promote equestrian community


November 14, 2012
MILTON, Ga. — The city of Milton, which prides itself on promoting an "equestrian-centric" lifestyle, has come a long way in their efforts to preserve and promote the equestrian community.

In March 2012, city council members amended a zoning ordinance that previously only allowed barns and covered riding arenas to be located behind primary structures.

The amendment now allows for barns and arenas to be built in the front, on the side and in rear yards, within 100 feet from all property lines and 150 feet from structures on other properties.

"This change makes the city more attractive to potential residents who have horses," Mayor Joe Lockwood said. "In the past, a potential resident might not have considered purchasing land in Milton because the zoning restrictions created too much of a risk."

Councilmember Matt Kunz said people simply aren't buying large farms anymore.

"Changing this ordinance lets horse and other farm animal owners purchase smaller properties and use the space to their full advantage," Kunz said.

Kunz said he has supported the preservation and promotion of the equestrian community since his run for city council last year and continues to move the effort forward through his alliance with the Milton Horse Council, which exists to help and support the equestrian community.

Laura Bentley, head of the Georgia Hunter Jumper Association, is a member of the Milton Horse Council.

"The city has come a long way in supporting the equestrian lifestyle and its community in Milton," she said.

Bentley said city officials consider the equestrian community one of the city's top three stakeholder groups.

"They've identified us as one of the most important groups in Milton," Bentley said. "They're not just focused on the business and residential stakeholders."

Bentley said the change to the zoning ordinance is a big step for the city and was no easy feat, but she believes there is still more to be done.

"We are outnumbered," she said. "Everyone loves the equestrian community, but when a park is being redesigned or built, we're not always considered."

Most parks are active parks, including baseball diamonds and other sports field space, but the horse community needs passive parks, where horses can be ridden, she said.

Currently, horses can be ridden only at the 200-acre Birmingham Park, 750 Hickory Flat Road in Milton

"The city needs to continue to focus on providing an open space for us to ride," Bentley said.

The city is looking at ways to move forward in their commitment to promote an equestrian lifestyle for Milton residents, Lockwood said.

This included the modification to the zoning ordinance, along with the inclusion of equestrian uses in the citywide trail plan and the preservation of existing public resources for equestrian use.

Lockwood said these items are being reviewed through the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

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