Op-ed: ‘There is no way to know how many equestrian facilities and barns will be able to weather the financial storm codes and fees have created’

La Center resident Susan Rasmussen shares her thoughts on on-going disputes between the Clark County equestrian community and the county over regulations

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com

Susan Rasmussen
Susan Rasmussen

Clark County’s robust equestrian community does things right when it comes to building relationships, businesses, strong youth and showing up at county hearings voicing their concerns.  It has taken decades for the equestrians to establish their businesses. But, on-going disputes over Clark County regulations are putting them at risk, not just today, but for years to come.

If the county stays on this highly regulatory road, there is no way to know how many equestrian facilities and barns will be able to weather the financial storm codes and fees have created.  Urban planners argue regulations are the answer and bureaucracy is the right way to handle disputes. This community has a long storied history of neighborliness and taking care of things better than regulations can ever hope to achieve. 

The county failed to recognize the need to use the community and conduct outreach to make solutions.  I don’t see where qualitative or quantitative materials were gathered from farmers and equestrians, whose livelihoods depend upon their barns and arenas. Imposing restrictive, costly regulations on an industry before conducting outreach and eyeing potential impacts of the regulations, is like regulating coffee without asking Starbucks for advice. 

The regulators took a short sighted approach in failing to recognize all the benefits this community provides.  They failed to recognize the impacts to regional economies, jobs, culture and the unique rural character that defines southwest Washington. The background work for regulatory policies that end up controlling livestock barns and equestrian facilities, becomes a method using neglect.  That narrowed approach ends in recommendations that have the ability to forever alter the thriving culture and character of not only the region, but a lifestyle that was here long before there was a County Comprehensive Growth Plan.

That may be what’s really intended here, to displace equestrians by regulating them out of existence.  The power they own in their numbers is impressive. Tucked away in the county’s Comprehensive Growth Plan is a clause that infers barns and arenas are using up many “exurban parcels” that are underutilized and could be used for high density housing and more property taxes.  The assumption is, if the facilities are regulated and displacement happens, the effects on the rural communities would be minimal. Nothing is further from the truth.

Susan Rasmussen
Clark County Citizens United, Inc.