Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Homeowners, city, county battle over horse manure

Harmless Or Health Hazard?

by Jason Wright / Appen Newspapers

April 24, 2009

There is a heap of trouble brewing on Birmingham Road — heaps made of horse manure, to be exact.

The two piles of manure constitute either a harmless compost heap or an odorous health hazard, depending on which side of the fence you are on.

They sit on the 6.25-acre horse farm owned by 15-year Milton resident Cynthia Chandlee, just about 45 feet from her neighbor's kitchen window.

Chandlee says they are compost piles that break down into rich fertilizer, which is then picked up by a local landscaping company.

But her neighbors of eight years, Ricky and Kim Crittenden, say that's a load of, well, manure.

Their position is this is not proper compost, and that in certain times during the summer, the smell and flies get so bad they can barely go outside. They say it washes into their yard and is an environmental hazard.

"We've had company come over, and it's embarrassing," said Ricky Crittenden.

He said their property is surrounded by horse farms, which they love. Of course, none of the other farmers place mounds of waste 10 feet from the property line.

All they want, Crittenden said, is for Chandlee to move the piles someplace farther away where no one can be bothered by them. They said that request goes back to when they bought the land for the home from Chandlee in 2000.

Not surprisingly, Chandlee says the mounds are placed in the best area for them and her.

In April, the Crittenden's called Fulton County's Department of Health and Wellness and alerted environmental specialists to the mounds — part of what Chandlee calls "an ongoing feud" between the two families that has in the past involved Milton's code enforcement division.

Fulton County Environmental Specialist Lindsay Charles cited Chandlee April 8 for both keeping conditions conducive to breeding flies and maintaining "putrescent" material. He gave her two weeks to clean them up.

The problem, said Chandlee, is that horse manure compost piles don't breed flies — the chemical process that breaks down the material creates a reaction too hot their eggs to survive. Also, she said the piles don't smell like fresh manure because of that same process.

So when Charles came back April 22 to check on the clean up, Chandlee hadn't removed the piles. And now she's going to court May 1 for it.

"You have to be kidding me," said Chandlee. "I'm going to court for horse poop."

Fulton wants her to clean up all manure from her five horses twice a week.

"We're trying to go green, and they want this to go to a landfill. No horse manure should ever go to a landfill," Chandlee said.

April Majors is public affairs officer for the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness. She said compost or not, Chandlee was cited because it was determined the pile had the potential for producing a nuisance.

"It can attracts files, mosquitoes or rodents and can cause problems for both homeowners," she said. "It is our responsibility to investigate, and upon investigation there was found to be a violation."

Chandlee is perhaps most livid she could be cited for the potential of flies and smell.

"That's like giving someone a speeding ticket when they're sitting in a parking lot," she said.
For the Crittenden's, the situation has become a nightmare. When Chandlee was cited April 22, she began calling media outlets to tell the story. They say they weren't aware of any "ongoing feud" between them and Chandlee — whom they almost never speak with. They said they decided to only go through "proper authorities" and are distressed they are now involved in a saga playing out in the newspapers.

"Those claims of a feud are untrue," said Kim Crittenden. "I'm a private person, this is so embarrassing for me. I'm just not that kind of person."

They say they are now worried that the horse community in Milton might be turned against them.

"This has nothing to do with horses, nothing to do with farms," said Kim Crittenden. "It has to do with not being a responsible horse owner."Her husband agreed."This is between Fulton County and the property owner," said Ricky Crittenton. "I don't even know why names have to come into it. We just want the homeowner to take appropriate responsibility for managing her manure."

The whole situation has been creating quite a headache for Milton City Manager Chris Lagerbloom. He said the city was first called to Chandlee's farm by the Crittendens in 2007 when Chandlee began composting the material instead of having it hauled off. Chandlee said that was due to rising costs of having it transported.

At first a code enforcement officer asked her to move the piles 100 feet from the property line. Then Milton reversed its position after Chandlee did some research and provided her findings. Chandlee apparently wasn't composting commercially, which would have required the 100-foot rule, so there was no violation of city code.

Lagerbloom said since then the calls have continued — which the Crittendens refute — and no violations have ever been found, "You can only investigate the same thing so many times," he said. But Milton can't tell Fulton what to do."They [Fulton County] have a health code that they believe at this point has been violated," said Lagerbloom. "Our opinion is that we can't stop the Department of Health as much as my personal interest might be to say, 'Come on guys, let's not let this get out of control.'"

Chandlee maintains she has been unfairly targeted. There are at least five horse farms that surround her property on Birmingham Road, none of which have been cited.

But that's because no one has ever complained."It's selective prosecution," she said. "If it applies to me, it applies to every horse farm in Milton."

The Crittendens feel the whole situation is "very unfortunate.""This should be handled as neighbors," said Kim Crittenden. "It's a waste of our officials' time and a waste of taxpayer money."

The outcome could set a big precedent for the small town, which is rife with horse farms and even bases its image on them."We have a lot of horse farms, and with horse farms come horse poop — it's just a fact of life," said Lagerbloom. "There could be the risk that the people who are upset with a neighbor or don't like the smell or the visual appearance of it [could file] a complaint to an agency outside the city of Milton's control that does have the ability for enforcement action."


Anonymous said...

Okay, don't want to be labeled the "horse hater", but why couldn't she just move the manure further away from the property line as a courtesy?

Anonymous said...

I can argue this from both views...Chandlee was there first, so the Crittendens were aware of the manure before buying the neighboring property, and per Doug Nurses article, Chandlee promised to move the manure at that time?

So, why didn't she? Problem solved.

Then you have the Crittendens, who state "This should be handled as neighbors"...okay, no argument from me on that one, but then why did they complain to 2 different government entities and then make this stupid statement "It's a waste of our officials' time and a waste of taxpayer money"

Sounds like the crap calling the manure stinky if you ask me.

It's Chandlee's fault if she didn't move the manure after promising to, and it's the Crittenden's fault that we are even reading about this.

Anonymous said...

Well put, this should have been kept between neighbors and if they didn't want to waste taxpayer's money, then it's nobody's fault but their own

Anonymous said...

This should have been handled privately. We are a horse/agrarian community and this is a byproduct of that, but why couldn't she just be neighborly and move her pile?

I don't know either of these folks, but I think Chandlee should have empathized with the Crittendens request and moved the pile.

Anonymous said...

Note that the Crittendens property is surrounded by other horse farms as well.


If the Crittendens have a problem with the agrarian lifestyle they should have moved to a property that is not surrounded by horse farms.

The fact that the Crittendens are wasting our tax dollars on their own mistake is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Why has council woman Bailey not jumped in and fixed this problem?
Will she have a neighborhood meeting with these owners?

Anonymous said...

Chandlee is recycling and in this manner it is a benefit to our enviroment. I applaud her for being eco- friendly.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they could start "Milton Goes Brown". They could also be responsible for the thousands of leaky septic tanks in the community.

Anonymous said...

There's all kind of manure in council district 2, the least of which is the equestrian type.

BP Guy said...

Someone please call the Trophy Club golf course, their greens need all the manure they can get. There is no green in the green, so at least with the brown horse manure there would be a reason for the condition. Anyway, it was there before the Crittendens purchased the property, deal with or move. Seems Milton was better before it was Milton and want-a-be like the Crittendens move in. Heck they probabaly want to have it all re-zoned so to tax the horse farms out of the business. If this happens, I would suggest that Chandlee sell to the government so low-income government housing can be built nextdoor. In short order I bet they would welcome back the horse manure over the human manure they would have then.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the old west, horseshit and gun smoke.

Anonymous said...

If someone discovered a way to make all horse poop smell like roses, there would be argument that it should smell like some other flower or something else.

The smell is in the nose of the beholder.

Anonymous said...

If you think this is bad, go back 60 years and imagine what it would be like if all your now neighbors had an outhouse.

Anonymous said...

Chandlee should just move the manure piles. She is the reason this has turned into a big issue. If she had done what she promised, the Crittenden's would not have had to file a complaint. Chandlee is just looking for attention and causing a fuss.

Anonymous said...

I want to ride nekkid horses with Cynthia. I'll bet she rides reverse cowgirl like a rodeo queen.

Anonymous said...

Yes, horse poop is a product of having horses and yes, it has to be put somewhere, but that doesn't give anyone the right to be a bad neighbor. It seems to me that moving the pile is the simple answer and while I'm sure Chandlee is trying to prove a point, she's adding to the problem. This isn't a hosre/agranian problem nor is it a matter of a non-horse homeowner against a horse farm homeowner it now a media problem with everyone sticking their noses into it.

Anonymous said...

You've got to be kidding, are people really sticking their nose in it?

Anonymous said...

Lets be honest here, this is a stinking problem, and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

The property is Zone AG1 meaning agriculture. We should all get together and have our property zoned commercial and sell it for Millions per acre and all make a big fat ton of money....and put this horse manure to rest and then let her (kim) live next to a Super Wal Mart.

This lady Kim as opened up a Pandora's box. I own 17 acres next to Ms. Chandlee and have even mowed Ms. Chandlee's lawn for her in the heat of the summer and NEVER smelled what OUR neighbor is describing. I think it is absolutely pathetic what YOUR/MINE neighbor has done to you as well as the horse community here in Milton. Furthermore, I own a Piranha fly spray system in my barn that runs 24/7 which is guaranteed to kill flies in a 1 mile radius. Ms Chandlee's property is located less then 1000 feet from my fly spray system.

Get a life Kim, as if we don't pay enough in taxes here in Ga then to be paying for your frivolous law suits and accusations.

0 Birmingham Road

Anonymous said...

It is Chandlees property. She has the right to put the horse manure anywhere on her property that she sees fit.

Anonymous said...

How does this dispute threaten Milton Horse Farms? Chandlee has completely turned this situation to her being a "victim". Why couldn't she just be a good neighbor and move the piles away from the fence line? Other farms are not threatened because their manure isn't causing a problem, only Chandlee's. As far as the Crittenden's wasting taxpayers money by complaining to officials -they wouldn't have had to if Chandlee would have moved the piles to begin with nine years ago when asked!!

Anonymous said...

Another person with his/her nose in it.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't everyone in Milton get a whiff of horse manure every now and then! We are in horse country. There has to be a win win situation for both parties. Cynthia should be able to compost the manure and the neighbors should also not be overwhelmed by the smell. When one is surrounded by pastures and animals it's hard pressed to say the stench is coming from just one pile! Sorry!

Anonymous said...

Plug it in, plug it in!