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    Proposed horse farm clears jump

    Some neighbors are worried about the size of the riding arena, but the county signs off on the plans.

    By ERIC STIRGUS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2000


    LARGO -- For nearly a year, Kelly Morean looked around Pinellas County for just the right place for her 22 Arabian horses.

    Many of the potential sites were 2 or 3 acres, not enough space to accommodate the horses, which are presented in various shows.

    The search seemed futile. That is, until early this year, when Morean looked at a stretch of land for sale at 2981 Whitney Road.

    At 15 acres, it was spacious. Surrounded by century-old oak trees, it was beautiful. It even had a creek.

    Morean bought the property in February, but she wanted to spend $2-million on improvements that included a 38,135-square-foot, 33-feet high, L-shaped building for a stable, riding arena, maintenance area and an office. Some area residents were concerned about the size and height of the building and asked the county to deny the request.

    On Wednesday, the county's Board of Adjustment granted Morean her wish.

    Morean said she is excited about the opportunity.

    "The beauty of this is you can't find any horse farms that are left with 15 acres," said Morean, owner of Silver Star Arabians.

    There are less than a handful of indoor riding facilities in Pinellas County, said Audrey Bray, who owns a stable in Seminole and judges horse shows. Finding sufficient land in mid-Pinellas for a horse stable can be difficult, she said.

    The Whitney Road property had been used by Meg Janinda, who taught people how to ride horses on the land. After the owner decided to sell the land, Janinda moved her operation to a horse farm in Dunedin, Bray said.

    The land was a mess, Morean said. There was a recreational vehicle and two other vehicles on the property, she said. Morean found mattresses, tires and a basketball in the creek. There was also a 12-foot-high pile of branches and leaves, Morean recalled.

    "The more you dug, the more you found," she said.

    Last month, neighbors got a notice from the county about Morean's plans. Some were concerned. Some remembered last year's proposal by a company to build about two dozen single-family homes on the land. County commissioners denied that request.

    One such resident was Frances Maloney, who bought a home abutting the property in May. A selling point for Maloney was the serene view of the wooded area.

    "I'm concerned about the size of the building and whether it takes away from the view for the rest of the neighborhood," she told the board.

    Resident Mike Bagley said his main objection was the size of the building. He also worried about the effect the construction might have on wetlands on the property.

    "We're never going to do anything to harm the environment," Morean said.

    Board members did not believe the height and size of the proposed facility would be a major problem.

    After learning that the building will have open space on all sides, Bagley said he was not as worried. "It's not too obtrusive," he said.

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