Questions remain before the Juneau Planning Commission can decide if a Montana Creek Road horseback riding business can expand to acreage fronting 9990 Mendenhall Loop Road, commissioners decided Tuesday night.
Two neighbors of the proposed operation expressed concerns about safety and what it could do to the environment, and particularly the waste that 35 to 40 horses could generate from mid-May to mid-September. The horses are boarded in British Columbia during the winter, the owner said.
Lyle Yost, who is looking to expand his current Montana Creek Road horse riding business, told planning commissioners Tuesday that he wants to be a good Juneau neighbor. He said his horse manure "is almost an ideal situation" because composting turns it into perfect soil. He said he is even willing to load the composted manure for anyone who wants it.
According to the proposal, the horses are diapered along the trail so that all of the manure would be limited to the site.
If he were in it for the money, he could find an easier way to make a buck, the Colorado dentist told commissioners.
But he can offer visitors something they can't get downtown, while taking them off the crowded downtown streets.
"It's the real Alaska versus the curio shops. They can get that anywhere," he said.
"I don't mean to offend anybody, but this is what (patrons) want to do," he said.
Yost received a conditional use permit for temporary stabling of 16 to 20 horses in 1999 for a site on Montana Creek Road. In 2001, he received another permit to expand the number of horses on the stabling property to 20 to 25.
City planner Monique Wheeler said the operation is out of compliance and currently houses 37 horses on the property. A modification to the existing permit is scheduled to be heard at a commission meeting later this summer.
Montana Creek Tours uses the horses for horseback tours along the 1 1/2 miles of Montana Creek Road that is not accessible by car and the Montana Creek Trail.
Commissioner Marshal Kendziorek questioned whether the proposed property would be large enough to maintain up to 40 horses.
Chavva Lee, executive director of the Gastineau Humane Society, said she would take into consideration that the horses would be off the site a good deal of the time.
"In anything in Juneau, we're operating on reduced sizes of land," she said. "We do the same thing when dog teams come to Juneau."
Wheeler recommended postponing action on the proposal until August to give staff a chance to address questions concerning water quality and acreage.
Although the site measures more than 3.6 acres, Wheeler said there is a question of how much of it will be usable for the horses and the trailers that will be used to take them off the property. She said the property has been used for illegal dumping.
"There is a large enforcement file on the property," she said, adding that she hadn't read it all.
Yost said cleaning up the site is a condition of the sale. He said the Mendenhall Loop Road property is the only land he could find for his operation. "It's either this or it's nothing," he said.
Tony Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.