Amy Cunningham
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Interim Gardner City Administrator Melissa Mundt warned Planning Commissioners they may see the owners of a miniature horse before them at an upcoming meeting scheduled for June 28.

“At the next meeting there should be a conditional use permit (before you),” Mundt explained.

Flower Souter offers pet mini-horse, Blazer, a snack. The Souters must seek approval Gardner's Planning Commission to keep Blazer in their subdivision. File photo

She said the horse’s owners, the Souter family were initially granted a permit to keep their pet at their Gardner residence by animal control, under the watch of the Gardner Police Department.

While the Souter family believed they had completed the necessary requirements to keep their pet at their home, the governing body was unaware of the animal’s presence in a residential neighborhood until a neighbor called the city to complain. However, Mundt stated,  a loophole in city codes that would require approval from zoning, which is overseen by the Planning Commission, had gone unnoticed.

“On one wing of the government they had a right (to keep the animal in town), but zoning would trump that,” she explained to commissioners.

“As far as owning farm animals – anything under three acres, we don’t allow and that is a standard amount,” Mundt said, comparing the city’s code with codes of other similar city’s in the area.  “From a community development perspective farm animals aren’t allowed.”

According to Mundt, the city has been working with the family to establish a timeline for Blazer the horse to find a new home. The family prepares to bring their case before the commission to ask for an exception for their pet.

Mundt said the city often must walk a fine line – in this case balancing the rights of the pet owners with the rights of their neighbors. She also said that community development would begin working on new language to shore up codes so similar situations will not arise in the future.

“We’re working with both departments (the police and zoning) to come up with something the council will think is fair,” she said.