FARMINGTON — A Foothills Drive neighborhood will have a new resident after city council approved a six-month special use permit for Sophie the horse.

The temporary permit will allow Tony and Denise Lovato to keep the horse on their property at Bogie Avenue.

It was approved after a lengthy debate about whether its presence would be a nuisance to neighbors.

"You're not dealing with the right to do something, you're dealing with a request for permission," said Mayor Tommy Roberts.

Roberts voted "nay" on an original proposal to grant the permit for the duration of the horse's life, breaking a tied council, and proposed the temporary permit alternative.

"It's a very emotional issue," he said. "The horse has a strong attachment to (the owner), but there are some very compelling arguments against (granting the permit). I'm a compromiser. It might be reasonable to deal with the problem on a trial basis."

For some neighbors, the issue was not about the horse itself, but about its vicinity to other homes in the neighborhood, cleanup and disposal of horse droppings, smell, insects and noise.

They said the area is too small for a horse.

The land surrounding the Lovato residence was made up of five-acre parcels, according to city records.

That land has been divided up, and today there are five homes on about 2.5 acres of property, said Lorraine Cosby, one of the Lovato's neighbors.


"I've lived there since 1992 and there has never been a horse at the property," she said. "I know there have been horses, but it's been 20 or 30 years ago. The previous people had goats and we had to put up with them."

Cosby said her most significant concern was with the horse corral's vicinity to her home -- 60 feet.

"I'm an animal lover, but the thing is ... that's way too close for a large animal," she said.

Robert K. Campbell, another neighbor, echoed Cosby's concerns.

"I have lived (in the neighborhood) since June 1975, and there hasn't been a horse," he said.

For Denise Lovato, the issue hits to the heart of her family.

Sophie the horse serves as a therapy animal for her aging and recently widowed mother.

"She got the horse almost eight years ago, after my little brother passed away," Lovato said. "It's helped her a lot."

Her mother cares for the horse and keeps the pen clean, she said.

City council granted the six-month permit provided the Lovatos install a six-foot privacy fence along the north and west ends of the property for the length of the 36-foot corral.

The Lovatos applied for the permit on Dec. 11, 2012.

Their 1.25-acre property already has a barn and tack shed measuring 33 feet by 12 feet and a fenced area measuring 165 feet by 36 feet.

City code states about one acre per horse as a minimum guideline for granting a special use permit.