AIKEN -- The next time a resident complains of the odor of horse manure coming from a neighbor's property, Aiken City Council will have help counting the flies.
Council unanimously approved the creation of a Horse Advisory Committee on Monday at its first meeting of the new year.
Composed of individuals who represent the horse community, the committee will be called on to investigate and recommend solutions to problems or issues -- brought up by city council or within the community -- dealing with horses.
The group will begin assisting council immediately, City Manager Roger LeDuc said.
"Hopefully, the group will take care of any problems by talking with the owner before it gets to the level where council is needed," he said.
Last year, city council was plagued by residents' complaints about odors and flies intruding from the property of neighbors with horses. The complaints sparked a controversy over the number of horses allowed per acre in neighborhoods where the animals are allowed.
At one point officials even explored the idea of counting the number of flies attracted to the animals to determine whether a property was sanitary.
After months of discussion and consultation with experts, council determined there was no definitive number of horses -- or flies -- that would make a property unsanitary. So, in November they decided to leave the number of horses per acre unrestricted.
Instead, city council decided tightening and enforcing maintenance standards was a better solution.
If there is a problem with adhering to maintenance standards, the Horse Advisory Committee will help determine a way to solve the problem with the horse owner.
"This will really be self-policing on the part of the committee," Mr. LeDuc said.
He said he'll meet with the committee later this week to discuss its guidelines. Mr. LeDuc will also meet with the group at least once a year to discuss issues in general, otherwise they will come together when needed, he said.
The following representatives have been named to serve on the committee: Jack Wetzel, representing the driving and racing community; John Hadden, veterinarian; Lisa Handy, veterinarian; I. Lehr Brisbin, ecologist; Courtney Conger, of The Steeplechase Association; Linda K. McLean, hunting; Alan Corey, polo; and Lucy Knowles, planning commissioner.
"I think this is a great idea," Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said. "The committee will be helping to talk with people in the community about horse issues. We're thankful for their help."
In other business Monday night, city council unanimously approved the first land sale in Ventures Industrial Park.
Coca-Cola Consolidated is expected to buy a 10-acre tract -- to be sold for $10,000 per acre -- in the industrial park, Mr. LeDuc said. He said he expects the deal to be finalized within 60 days.
The company plans to move its warehousing and distribution center from York Street to the larger site, which will provide room for expansion, Mr. LeDuc said.
Ventures Park is a 185-acre industrial park designed for light-to-medium-size manufacturers located just south of Aiken Municipal Airport.
It was also announced that The Aiken Electric Cooperative gave the city a $300,000 grant to improve Ventures Park's infrastructure -- roads, water and sewer system, and storm drainage.
Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895.
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