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SK retirees hope to save family farm
"If Tom and Linda Hallett can prove their narrow, 1.16-acre property was used to legally train and breed horses from 1979 to 1983, they might be able to keep training and breeding Palomino show horses on their farm.If not, the county Department of Community Development will enforce an abatement order requiring them to get rid of all but two or three horses from the Narrow Acre Farm on Collins Road in South Kitsap County by the middle of June. Failure to comply with the abatement will run them $475 per day per horse.The county began looking into compliance on the property after a neighbor contacted the DCD. We had a complaint they were running a breeding and training business on the lot, said Eric Baker, code enforcement supervisor with the county Department of Community Development. Because the property is zoned rural residential, running what would be essentially a small commercial business would not comply with county zoning laws.County code currently allows only one large livestock per 20,000 square feet of property. Because Narrow Acre Farms is only 1.16 acres, or about 50,500 square feet, even three horses is pushing the limit. Narrow Acre Farms generally has between eight and 12 horses on site.Furthermore, county code requires a 200-foot buffer on either side of the livestock. The property is about 200 feet across total. The code enforcer went out, Baker said. Due to the size and narrowness, they weren't able to meet the mitigation impact. It left us with an uncomfortable (situation) - if they can't get legal, they can't do it.But the Halletts went back to the county and requested a non-conforming use designation for the property, which says if land was legally and historically used for something when it was purchased, it can continue to be used for that purpose, even if county codes change.Linda Hallett purchased the property in 1992 from former owner Clifton Hargrove to use as a quarter horse breeding farm and arena. Hargrove apparently used it for training and breeding horses for 15 years before that.She moved in with her Palomino stallion, Skippa Colonel Irwin, and named the property Narrow Acre Farm.Today, several Palomino quarter horses reside at Narrow Acre Farm. Most were sired by Skippa. The majority of the horses there don't belong to the Halletts. They're owned by 4-H members who board them there. Linda is the assistant 4-H leader this year. She gives riding lessons and teaches young participants showmanship, grooming and care. They wouldn't be able to do 4-H without Narrow Acre, she said. While horses are the largest residents at Narrow Acre Farms, the Halletts own a variety of creatures, including ducks, a goose named Mrs. Armstrong, a pot-bellied pig and two miniature nanny goats. A peacock cries out when someone pulls up to the gate and silky chickens nest near the residence. A small guard dog, a blue heeler named Xena, keeps watch over the property and two cats, one orange, one a mottled brown and white, serve as mousers.The Halletts go through about four tons of hay each month, which runs about $180 a ton. They also buy about $300-worth of grain each month.When Linda purchased the property, there was a mound of manure 10 feet high. In 1995, it was as high as the barn itself. Water ran from the roof onto the manure pile and leached into the surrounding land. In 1996, the Halletts met with the county conservation district to develop a farm plan. Today, the manure pile is gone. We took care of all that, Tom said. Green space acts as a filter for manure run-off from the horses living there now and the Halletts dug a pond which they aerate to further clean the water leaving their property. About 72 percent of the property is now green belt, they said.While the mitigation was a lot of work, Tom said, it wasn't totally cost-prohibitive. It was a couple thousand over three years, he said. The conservation district offered a cost-sharing plan, but the Halletts couldn't come up with the money up front at the time. We don't make any money, Linda said.The Halletts are currently collecting letters and information from neighbors who bred horses with the Hargroves, the former owners, to prove the property was used as a training and breeding ground from 1979 to 1983.Hargrove wrote in an email message to the Halletts that he moved to the property with as many as 12 horses and used the property as a breeding barn while he lived there. He said the people who lived there before he and his wife moved in also owned and raised livestock at the property.Baker said the Department of Community Development will need to see hard evidence the property was used for breeding and training horses. As of the May 22 meeting, the historic evidence has been inadequate. If they can determine it was legal use in 1979, they can continue to use it now. We need to see something in the way of photos or documents, Baker said. The tough decision is going to be how much we're going to need to determine historical use. "