TOWN OF WATERFORD — The operators of Tiny Hooves Inc., a nonprofit animal rescue shelter, will have to jump through more hoops in order to move its shelter from Somers to Waterford.
The Town of Waterford Plan Commission made the recommendation to the Town Board Monday night to deny a conditional-use permit and variance to Tiny Hooves. The Town Board is scheduled to discuss the recommendation, which would allow the nonprofit to operate the shelter for up to 120 rescued farm animals, at its meeting next week.
“I am comforted and delighted by the support we received, yet also surprised at the negative reactions to our nonprofit finding a forever home in Waterford,” said Beca Thompson, the founder and president of Tiny Hooves.
The location for the permit is 5118 Buena Park Road, an empty plot of land where a horse farm was once located. The property is currently zoned as an A-2 General Farming and Residential District. Tiny Hooves is planning to move because the upcoming Foxconn Technology Group campus in Mount Pleasant has led their landlord to want to sell the land where their current location is located, on Highway EA, just south of Highway KR in Somers.
Tiny Hooves is an organization that provides “shelter, care, and rehabilitation for abused, neglected, abandoned, and unwanted small breed farm animals, including ones that can no longer be cared for by their owners.” They currently have approximately 100 animals, ranging from horses and donkeys, to ducks and chickens, at their Somers location.
The shelter very rarely takes in animals with illnesses. Many of the animals come in malnourished, unsocialized and sometimes abused. Thompson plans to live at the shelter and work with the animals alongside multiple volunteers who will work 4-8 hours a week. Some volunteers come from as far as Chicago. Being a nonprofit, Tiny Hooves is funded completely by donors.
During the public hearing portion of the Plan Commission meeting on Monday, nearly 10 Waterford-area citizens spoke, some in favor and some in opposition. Patrick Madison spoke about the importance of rescue shelters like Tiny Hooves at the meeting, saying that some animals need a place to go.
“I know a lot of people who have horses, and sometimes people just can’t afford them anymore,” he said. “Where are they going to go? They have to go to rescues.”
Dave Henningfeld, along with other local citizens, collected a petition of approximately 30 signatures from local residents who are opposed to the shelter coming to the proposed location. Neighbors of the property showed the board photos of a large amount of runoff that collected near their homes, apparently from the previous owner of the property.
“The major thing is the runoff and the noise,” said Henningfeld, who has lived in the Waterford area since 1976. “The amount of animals they have, with roosters crowing at 4 or 5 in the morning. It’s a residential area.”
The site of the proposed shelter is just north and east of residential subdivisions in the Town and Village of Waterford.
Plan Commission members also voiced these concerns. Some members also expressed concern over the large number of animals that will be held at the shelter.
“What about noise, what about smell?” said Town Chairman Tom Hincz. “I respect what you’re trying to do, I just don’t know if it fits in our community, and that’s my opinion.”
Tiny Hooves representatives did respond by saying that they have never had an issue with runoff, and that waste from herd animals will be cleaned up twice daily. Thompson believes that the number of volunteers that have been working with Tiny Hooves since 2015 will be able to provide every animal, many of them small animals, with individual care at the new site.
Thompson also said that not one neighbor at the shelter’s Somers site has complained about any excessive noise. They have already been drafting plans to remove manure from the Town of Waterford site as well, as they are looking to work with local farmers.
“We plan to attend the next hearing this coming Monday and provide them with as much of the additional information they asked for,” said Thompson. “If the decision is not made in our favor, we will sadly be forced to look outside of Racine County for our new home. We had hoped to stay close to our roots, despite the Foxconn development, but time is not on our side.”
The Town Board is scheduled to discuss the permit at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 13, at the Waterford Town Hall, 415 N. Milwaukee St.