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And they're off -- again -- in Afton

Once again, the River Valley Riders (RVR) are galloping towards the finish line after the Afton Planning Commission approved the application for a conditional use permit to construct an outdoor riding arena.

The planning commission originally sent the application to the city council at its March meeting.

But prior to the meeting, the applicants asked to be remanded back to the planning commission because of substantial changes to their application. Rather than having RVR re-apply, the council approved their request to be remanded.

RVR is a non-profit corporation that provides horse-related activities, including therapeutic riding and driving to children and adults, by addressing needs in the areas of physical, sensory, neurological and mental health.

The group's initial request was to construct a temporary outdoor riding arena, parking area, small shelter, fencing, outdoor lighting system and outdoor bathroom facilities near the west end of the property, a 38-acre lot located south of I-94 on Neil Avenue.

RVR's new request is to construct the temporary outdoor riding arena at the East end of the property because of the bids they have received and concerns from the neighbors.

This outdoor riding arena is only the first phase of the entire project. The group plans to construct a more permanent facility at a later date since they are currently operating out of the Washington County Fairgrounds.

The long-term plan, proposed to be completed by 2013, will consist of an indoor housing and riding area, a septic system, a residence for the caretaker, stables to board a maximum of 15 horses and fencing for horse pastures.

Through the bids they received, RVR learned that it would be more cost effective to construct the temporary structure in the same area as the permanent structure.

RVR members also wanted to appease the adjacent property owners who had voiced concerns about the lighting and potential noise.

The new proposal will have the facility separated from the adjacent property by trees. Commissioners said the trees would work well as a lighting and sound barrier.

The several conditions that the planning commission placed on the initial application are still applicable to this approval.

The conditions state that RVR must address parking, lighting, storm water management, signage, waste removal and disguise the outdoor bathroom facility with vegetation and shrubbery.

The location of the driveway is still an outstanding issue and is currently being reviewed by Washington County.

The application will go before the Afton City Council at its April 21 meeting.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

(651) 702-0976