Therapeutic riding center gets nod from county board

Windy Ridge Ranch will be the location of a new therapeutic riding center for people with developmental disabilities. The ranch received a conditional use permit from the Houston County Board April 9. ~ Shelly Ellingson/Submitted
Windy Ridge Ranch will be the location of a new therapeutic riding center for people with developmental disabilities. The ranch received a conditional use permit from the Houston County Board April 9.
~ Shelly Ellingson/Submitted

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus


A therapeutic riding center to help individuals with developmental disabilities received a nod from the Houston County Board April 9 when a conditional use permit was granted for the property.

Touching Moments Animal Assisted Activities is a Houston County-based nonprofit agency that “provides enjoyment and enrichment to the lives of individuals through the use of animal-assisted activities,” according to their mission statement. Touching Moments offers animal-assisted activities to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, foster homes, youth groups, day care programs, preschools, disabled individuals and hospitals. The organization is now developing an equine riding program.

The therapeutic riding program will offer its recipients the opportunity to enhance their emotional, physical and psychological development through the use of the horse.

The riding center will be located Mound Prairie Township on Union Ridge Drive.

Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan told the county board, “It gives folks with developmental disabilities confidence to be among their peers.”

The program will start small with an outdoor riding arena and eventually expand to include a covered riding arena.

Touching Moments has been actively pursuing this effort for quite some time.

“Program implementation activities are on target with an orientation for riders, volunteers and representatives from organizations supporting individuals with disabilities scheduled for this October 2013 and with plans to be in full operation by the spring of 2014,” Shelley Ellingson, program coordinator, said in a follow-up interview.

The organization continues to accept volunteers interested in participating as leaders, side-walkers and certified riding instructors.

For more information, visit


Other conditional use permits

Also up for a conditional use permit (CUP) was a “hardship dwelling” for Gary Skree and an exhibition permit for Leonard Jr. and Holly Wieser of Yucatan Township.

A hardship dwelling CUP must be obtained when there is an existing house on a property and the family would like to put another manufactured home on the property to help a family member who is perhaps ill, elderly or otherwise cannot maintain the dwelling, Scanlan explained.

He said the county has a few of these already.

“In this case, the existing house is fairly old and not well maintained. I think it is the family’s interest to remove the home in the future,” Scanlan said.

The CUP has very few conditions attached to it other than state and local septic requirements must be met and, when the situation changes, the other house is removed or torn down.

The CUP was granted without discussion.

Finally, an item that was tabled mid-March came back and received approval.

Leonard Jr. and Holly Wieser requested an exhibition permit  for music events that generate more than 250 people. They possess a permit dating back to 2002, which allowed for up to three events, but they now want to host more.

At the plan commission level – the step required before going to the county board – several neighbors voiced concerns about noise and access to the property in emergencies, Scanlan said.

“After discussion from people that showed up and the Wiesers, the plan commission came up with several conditions,” Scanlan said, which include:

–Indoor stage requirements: Doors shut at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; midnight Friday and Saturday; and 11 p.m. Sunday.

–Outdoor stage requirements:

• All federal, state and local permits be obtained

• Only one stage allowed outdoors

• Electronic techno festivals limited to three per year

• Music ends at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 p.m. Sunday

• Friday and Saturday maximum of 120 decibels at “front of house,” or at stage, reduced to 80 decibels between midnight and 1 a.m.

• If attendance is more than 500, notify the sheriff

• 1,500 maximum capacity

• Review the permit in April 2014

The item, along with the conditions, was unanimously approved.


Zoning permits

A total of four zoning permits were also approved, and included:

• Steve Quinnell – Wilmington Township – replace pole barn, destroyed by fire, in same location

• John and Lynn Tschumper – Money Creek Township – build a four-season porch on home

• Ben Lind – Sheldon Township – build an addition on house

• Alan Esch – Mayville Township – build house, garage and porch


Economic Development

Although brief, the board entertained a few items related to economic development.

First, a full-color magazine titled “Discover Houston County Minnesota” is being circulated among the county’s communities now. The 25-page visitor guide is a product of the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and highlights each community’s assets and attractions.

The county board also approved the appointment of resident Kelley Stanage to the EDA for a six-year term.