By Richard Bell
Robin Clayton, with all kinds of community support from letters, email, and impassioned speakers, has won his long fight for the zoning variances he needed to continue keeping his horse Angel on his property on East Petpeswick Road in Musquodoboit Harbour.
Clayton’s problem started more than a year ago when HRM Compliance Officer Trevor Oliver came to the house in response to an anonymous complaint about the appearance of Clayton’s outbuildings. As he was leaving, Oliver told Clayton that the small shed Clayton had built to house Angel might be in violation of an HRM bylaw governing how close a building housing a horse could be to the neighboring property line and wells.
Almost two months later, Clayton received a formal “Notice to Comply” with the land-use bylaw signed by Compliance Officer Oliver. After stating the by-law, Oliver wrote:
“TAKE NOTICE that in order to bring the property into compliance with the applicable regulations, the following steps are required: Remove the horse and associated horse barn from the property."
Clayton then filed an application for variances from the zoning regulations that would allow him to keep the horse at home. The principal issues involved the distance from the location of the stable to wells on the adjacent properties and to Petpeswick Inlet. As it happens, both wells were significantly higher on the hillside. And more than 7 years after Angel arrived, no one had had any problems with their well water.
HRM Planning denied Clayton’s request for variances, so he took his final appeal to the Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council. Both of the adjacent neighbors sent the Council strong letters of support for allowing Clayton to keep the horse. The Council received many letters and emails supporting Clayton. And more than 7,000 people had signed a GoFundMe page supporting Clayton.
At an emotional hearing before the Community Council on February 2, 2023, Clayton made his case. He got strong support from several local residents who testified, including Shannon Monk and Marit Montgomery, who has horses on her property. The most moving testimony came from Jen Oakes, whose young daughter has a pony housed at Montgomery’s place. Oakes broke down as she told the Council that her daughter was very upset because she was afraid that HRM would come and take her pony away too.
In the end, the Council voted unanimously to override the recommendation of the Planning Department and allow Angel to stay home. In discussion, they agreed that the zoning regulation was designed to deal with pollution from a herd of animals, not a single horse. Clayton expressed his great appreciation to everyone who had helped him along the way.