OUR VIEW: Residents should try to work it out

Published 4:46 pm Sunday, December 22, 2019

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Citizens should never take the law into their own hands, but neighbors should work to bring about peaceful resolutions to disagreements.

The Albemarle City Council has found itself in the middle of a squabble between a counseling service and its neighbors for more than six months now.

Families residing in the College Park development charge that Creative Counseling Services, owners of two horses used for equine therapy, are creating a nuisance as a result of odor from horse manure. It is hard to imagine how two horses in a wide open space could cause such complaints. Many people across the country pay lots of money to purchase or live near horse farms.

It takes two to argue, and it appears there has been no face-to-face dialogue between those on opposing sides of this issue. Instead, the Albemarle City Council has repeatedly been obligated to hear one group or the other state its case during the “unannounced delegations” portion of regular meetings, leaving no opportunity for the opposing side to make rebuttal or engage in open debate.

On Nov. 18, College Park resident Michael Lambert admitted not having spoken to Creative Counseling Director Dr. Laura Harbeson about his complaints.

When asked by Councilman Chris Whitley if he had reached out to Harbeson, Lambert replied he had not.

“She don’t want to communicate with me, and I’d just as soon not either,” Lambert said.

Volumes have been written on the “how-to’s” of conflict resolution. And while steps and philosophies vary, one common theme exists in all of them — communication between the two sides is the first step.

That hasn’t happened in this case.

It has been established that Creative Counseling is legally justified by ordinance to keep the horses. The complaint being levied by the College Park contingent is that the conditions at Creative Counseling create a nuisance, not an ordinance violation.

As such, it should be the responsibility of the person or group initiating the complaint (in this case, the College Park residents), to make contact with Creative Counseling and discuss the situation face-to-face. This is not an issue for city council.

The two parties should have met to work this out on their own. Surely, some kind of compromise could be reached.

If no resolution can be reached, then the matter can be taken to a higher authority.

Had this first step been followed, the meeting hours that Albemarle City Council has devoted to this issue possibly could have been utilized on more pressing matters. Instead, by immediately going over the heads of Creative Counseling, the College Park group’s actions now resemble that of an elementary school “tattle-tale.”

The city has a responsibility to hear the concerns of its residents and that is what the open comments portion is included in the council’s meetings.

At Monday’s meeting, Jon-Michael Haymond, who appeared and spoke on behalf of Creative Counseling, offered to contact representatives of the College Park group in an effort to set up a meeting to air grievances and seek resolutions. And while this is a gracious move on the parts of Haymond and Creative Counseling, it is a step that should have been taken by the residents from College Park several months ago.

Creative Counseling provides a vital service to its clients. Likewise, the residents of College Park should be able to enjoy outdoor activities at their homes.

With Christmas just around the corner, let’s hope that a spirit of peace and good will can guide the two sides to a harmonious resolution.