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Health board takes action against local horse owner

AYER — Resident and animal owner Ruth Maxant may have to go to court with the town over a dispute related to Board of Health (BOH) stable regulations.

The point of contention is a fence that is too close to an abutting property.

On Dec. 23, Maxant received a letter from town counsel Jeffrey Blake, of Kopelman and Paige, notifying her that the town would attempt enforcement action if she does not conform to local stable regulations.

“If compliance with the regulations is not made within 10 days of the receipt of this notice, the town will take further action to enforce your compliance or seek the removal of the horses from your property,” the letter reads.

Maxant does not have a stable license, which is granted by the BOH to local horse owners with compliant stable facilities.

Currently, she owns three horses housed in the barn at 17 Taft St., along with a number of goats, chickens and ducks. The horses include a pony named Angel, a retired police horse named Dakota and an older black horse named Black Magic that is going blind. All of the horses are retired, being at least 20 years old. The oldest is in its 30s, she said.

Maxant’s property is over five acres in size, she said, and was used for horses in the 1950s. The current barn was built in 1958. Maxant moved back to the property in 2000, when she began using it as a farm again.

The BOH began holding meetings with Maxant after receiving a complaint from neighbors in August 2005 objecting to goats that had invaded their property.

Health board members asked Maxant to provide them with a manure management plan and a plot plan to ascertain the location of the fence relative to the property line.

During a meeting with the board on Dec. 12, Maxant stated that she could not and would not move her fence 30 feet back to comply with town regulations.

When reached for comment later, Maxant said her main concern is that neighbors who made the complaint might begin to encroach upon her property. They had done so before, according to Maxant. When she built the fence in 2000, she built it through a sandbox placed on her land, she said.

There were issues with a post marking the property line as well, she said, which had been moved by persons unknown. Maxant hired a surveyor to replace the lot line marker.

Maxant is discussing her case with town counsel, and may be able to reach a compromise before court proceedings ensue. Currently under discussion is installment of a second, electrified fence 30 feet inside the current one.

This would make Maxant’s property conform with stable regulations that require that horse paddocks be enclosed no more than 30 feet from a lot line, while allowing Maxant to maintain her current fence along her property line.