Madrid board discusses potential horse arena

Nearly 40 Madrid residents gathered to listen and voice their opinions on whether or not to allow a prospective horse arena within city limits at a special meeting of the Madrid Village Board on July 23. 

A change of zoning to allow livestock would be needed on the 501 S Ford property currently owned by John Harms.

Currently, no livestock is allowed within city limits per village ordinance. 

Madrid Village Board Chairman Nick Ross announced that only residents living within city limits and the people purchasing the property were allowed to speak. 

Ross asked the people looking to buy the property, Joe and Diane Finney, to stand and introduce themselves. 

Ross asked if they would give their intentions for the property and they referenced their letter to the editor printed in the Grant Tribune on July 18.

When Ross asked if they had any questions, Diane suggested letting the residents share their concerns and questions. 

“We know what we want our intentions to be. We need to know how the community feels about those intentions,” said Diane. 

When asked about zoning and livestock in city limits, Ross said some of that has to do with the Wellhead Protection Act. 

Nebraska’s Wellhead Protection Program, is a voluntary program which assists communities in preventing contamination of their water supplies. The Nebraska Legislature passed LB 1161 in 1998, authorizing the Wellhead Protection Area Act. The Village of Madrid implemented a Wellhead Protection plan in 2001. 

Ross said they had a mess with the town’s appearance some 20 years ago, and as a board, they began cleaning up town and decided not to allow livestock within city limits. 

They have turned away several people asking to have livestock in town. Board Member Mark Heil said his concern in allowing the horse arena was where to stop when other requests come in. 

“It seems like we have two choices: keep it status quo or let everybody have all the animals they want in town,” said Heil.

Some commented that the property wasn’t really in town since it’s on the edge, but the board said legally it was in city limits. 

Diane said they didn’t understand when they made the offer on the property that there would be so many technicalities. 

The couple sold their Harrison, Wyoming ranch on a 1031 exchange four weeks ago, which dictates they must purchase an income-producing property. They have 45 days from the date of sale to name properties to close on. 

“That’s where the problem comes in, because we have to have livestock to turn it into an income-producing property,” said Diane. 

She said they can’t have just a few horses on the property because it wouldn’t make sense for them financially. She added they couldn’t give the board a definite number as it would change with different events and interest. 

Joe said their hope is that as time goes on, more people become involved. Therefore more livestock would be on the property than would be there at the beginning. 

Ross said it made it difficult for them to make a decision without knowing definite numbers.

A suggestion was made to annex the property out of city limits, but Attorney Joel Phillips said that could not be done within the time constraints. 

A neighbor to the property said she was against having that much livestock in town. She said before the arena was built, the horse barn across the street created flies and piled-up manure. The grass turned to dirt. They couldn’t open their windows because the smell and flies were so bad. 

Many spoke in favor of the arena, the opportunities it would provide and the business it would bring to what one called a dying town.

Someone else mentioned the property is on city water, which would be another problem to deal with. 

The Finneys volunteered to leave to allow the community to speak freely without them there. 

Ross said he had not spoken with the rest of the board, but he himself was not against taking some of the property out of the city limits to put some livestock on it. 

He said he would like to find a happy medium to work with them. 

After discussing several more potential scenarios, the board met in executive session to seek legal counsel. 

According to the meeting minutes, the board, after coming out of executive session,voted unanimously, with member John Harms abstaining, to do preliminary research on wellhead protection, changing zoning to agricultural, checking with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, changing ordinances to allow animals in town and how long the process could take.


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