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A special exception for an equestrian therapy facility for veterans on a portion of the former Quentin Riding Club was approved with several conditions by the West Cornwall Township zoning hearing board Tuesday.

Located on 16.26 acres, the equestrian therapy facility would include a two-story building with an indoor arena, a second-floor apartment for a caretaker, pastures for as many as six horses, and a parking lot. Besides equine-assisted therapy, the facility would offer a meeting space for veterans and their families to gather.

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“When I bought the property in 2019, none of this was in my head,” Quentin Associates’ owner Louie Hurst told zoning hearing board members. “Now it’s my passion and desire to see this happen.”

Read More: Quentin Riding Club sells at weekend auction for $2.1 million

Multiple visits to Building Bridges Foundation at Anderson Farm in Lancaster County, which has operated an equestrian-therapy facility there since 2017, has fueled Hurst’s commitment to restrict use of the property for this purpose.

“I want documents written so that the use can never be changed,” Hurst said. “This is forever. It will be written that it’s not for weddings, graduations, etc.”

The zoning hearing board included those among its conditions — namely, that the facility could not double as an event destination and that the facility by deed restriction would operate in perpetuity as a 501(c)3 providing equine therapy.

The zoning hearing board also stipulated traffic improvements to address anticipated congestion on Maple Lane — where the facility’s entrance will be located — and state Route 419. Both members of the zoning hearing board and Maple Lane residents attested to the issues with the intersection and need for improvements.

As stipulated by the zoning hearing board, those include a right turn lane for westbound traffic on Route 419 onto Maple Lane and a traffic control island so that vehicles exiting the facility must turn right rather than cutting through the residential neighborhood to reach state Route 72.

Other conditions included:

  • Working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service on a nutrient management plan including nutrient storage.
  • A building for storage of hay separate from the two-story building.
  • No rentals of the apartment to anyone other than the facility caretaker.
  • Replacement of maple trees on Maple Lane if any have to be removed.
  • Reducing the number of parking spaces.
  • Controls such as gates to safeguard the public from the horses.

Hurst is hopeful that he can partner with Building Bridges to operate the facility, but if necessary, he will create his own nonprofit and duplicate what that foundation does.

“I’m prepared to do this on my own if it doesn’t work out,” Hurst said. “We just have to work through the challenges.”

Equine therapy at Building Bridges Foundation 

“We’re a family of vets, a family of neighbors.”

That’s how Dave Anderson described Building Bridges Foundation at Anderson Farm in Lancaster County to members of the West Cornwall Township zoning hearing board Tuesday.

Building Bridges has been offering equine therapy to veterans since 2017. About 15 therapy sessions are scheduled each week, said Joe Campbell, a Building Bridges volunteer, who also attended Tuesday’s meeting.

The therapy team includes a horse handler who’s a veteran, a licensed clinical therapist certified in equine therapy, a veteran — and the horse. Often only two or three sessions are scheduled each day because that’s all the horses can handle, Campbell said.

“There is no riding that goes on during therapy,” Campbell said. “Therapy is about the interactions between the horse and the individual and understanding why is the horse reacting to you this way, why is the horse approaching you, why is the horse walking away from you.”

Besides the equine therapy, Building Bridges also offers a weekly gathering — Vets Café — for veterans and their families. Between 40 and 50 people drop in weekly to the Thursday morning café for conversation and community, Anderson said.

“Our philosophy is, this is the veterans’ place,” Anderson said. 

The programming to be offered at the former riding club could mirror that which occurs at Building Bridges, although whether that organization will run the facility hasn’t been confirmed. 

“We’ve been asked to provide input about what we do at Anderson Farm,” Campbell said. “This could be a possible second location for the program.”

Next up for the 46-acre tract is a hearing by township supervisors on a conditional use application for development of the entire parcel. The site’s zoning — R-1 low-density residential with mixed-use overlay — requires township supervisors approve a development plan through the conditional use approval process.

The first hearing on that application will be at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 23, in the township building and will consist of presentations by attorneys. Subsequent hearings on the application are planned and will include opportunities for public comment.

Approval of the special exception use for an equestrian therapy facility was the third approval from the zoning hearing board. Previously special exception uses were approved for a Wawa gas station and convenience store and age-restricted apartments.

Read More: Special exception granted for Wawa store & gas station in West Cornwall Township

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