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Rancher Says Neighbors' Lawsuit Smells

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Jean Maguire of La Mesilla pets one of four horses she keeps on her two-and-one-quarter acre property. She is currently being sued by a neighbor that claims the smell of horse manure is a nuisance.

A La Mesilla woman’s neighbors have taken her to court alleging foul odors eminate from her property.

Kenneth and Dawn Martinez of La Mesilla filed suit against their neighbor Jean Maguire over horse manure they say is preventing them from enjoying their own property.

The suit, which was filed in December 2017, claimed Maguire did not have her septic system properly installed and instead was throwing buckets of urine onto the Martinez’s land, in addition to failing to remove horse manure from the land.

Maguire said the allegations, especially concerning the septic system, were absolutely false, and that she had worked with the Rio Arriba County officials to ensure that the horse manure was managed in line with County ordinances.

“Defendant’s actions have created an overwhelming stench of offensive odor from the mixture of urine, fecal matter and horse manure,” Attorney Peter Bruso, of the Jay Goodman and Associates Law Firm, wrote in the initial complaint.

The Martinezes requested the court to issue an initial temporary restraining order claiming in part that they were afraid for their health and safety at home, but then-First Judicial District Judge Jennifer Altrep denied the request.

The case has been ongoing since December 2017, and District Court Judge Jason Lidyard is now presiding over the case.

At an April 1, 2019 hearing, he ordered Maguire to increase the area where her horses are contained, but Maguire said Lidyard is missing the point.

Maguire argued that the case is the result of harassment by her neighbors, and that the horses were well cared for and the manure removed on a regular basis.

Lidyard granted the Martinezes a temporary injunction because he said Maguire has a responsibility to prevent her horses’ manure from impeding her neighbor’s ability to enjoy their property.

In the ruling, Lidyard required Maguire to increase the area of her corral, which is currently one-fourth acre, to one-and-a-half acres in order to reduce the concentration of the manure.

“If you have any knowledge of horses, the greater the acreage, the more spread out the horse manure is and the more that can then leech into the ground thereby producing less odor,” Bruso said in a phone interview May 6. “The more concentrated it is, it doesn’t have the same opportunity to leech into the ground and it emits more odor.”

Attempts to contact the Martinezes were unsuccessful as of press time.

In the initial complaint, Bruso wrote that the Martinezes were concerned about groundwater flowing onto their land with possibly toxic contaminants that could contaminate their well.

Maguire bought her property in 2011, and she said the first complaints started coming in just a year later.

Maguire keeps four horses on her 2.25 acre property. For the majority of the day and night, they are confined to a one-fourth acre corral with a run-in shed, but they are regularly exercised, she said.

In December 2015 the New Mexico State Cattle Inspector conducted a site visit of the property and stated the area was kept in a clean manner, the horses were healthy and had adequate feed and water, records state.

She said it is safer for her horses to be in an enclosed area with a flat surface when they are unsupervised, to prevent injury, and keep them in optimal health. She also said the corral helps keep the horses from eating too much of the new spring grass, which can lead to laminitis, a painful and sometimes deadly disease horses can develop when grass is rich such as in spring months.

Maguire is concerned about the ruling, and the propensity for the case to set legal precedent in rural Rio Arriba County. She said even though the County has found her in compliance, her neighbors have been able to use the legal system to overrule the findings of County inspectors, and as such, the Martinezes are affecting the way she is allowed to enjoy her land.

It is unknown whether the court had reviewed the history of the dispute between the neighbors, as the initial complaint filed by the Martinezes failed to mention the multiple complaints that the County noted were unfounded.

Civil issue

Maguire said the suit is an attempt by the Martinezes to force her off her land by forcing her to spend thousands of dollars in court. She claims that throughout the process, the Martinezes have filed multiple complaints with Rio Arriba County Planning and Zoning, but that her property is in compliance.

Rio Arriba County Planning and Zoning Department records show complaints about Maguire’s property from as far back as November 2, 2015, when an anonymous person called to report Maguire had too many horses on her property and a strong manure odor.

“A faint horse manure odor was detected while walking the area during this site inspection,” a Department case history log form states. “A foul odor could not be detected while driving the county vehicle alongside the property with the windows down.”

The complaints continued and a total of six additional calls were made in the time from the initial complaint through the first half of 2016. The complaints came from Dawn Martinez and another neighbor, Bernie Salazar, but each time, the Department found only a faint odor of manure.

Dawn Martinez complained again July 11, 2016, about the manure and brought photographs to the Department showing what appeared to be piles of manure on Maguire’s land. Martinez also wanted to know why the County government allowed Maguire to live at the location, and asked about certificates of occupancy.

“Ms. Martinez was informed the Planning does not issue these certificates and she can contact the Construction Industries Division,” Department Assistant Planner Berlinda Trujillo wrote.

The same day, the Department conducted a site inspection, and noted a large accumulation of manure, but did not notice a stench. At that time the Department noted there were only two horses on the property.

Five days later, on July 16, 2016, Dawn Martinez went to the Department and reported that Maguire “stole her dog.” The Department advised her to contact law enforcement and told Dawn Martinez the matter was a civil issue.

On August 22, 2016, Maguire reported to the Department that her neighbor had followed her on his ATV, she was advised to contact law enforcement.

Martinez and Salazar continued to complain until February 24, 2017 when Kenneth and Dawn Salazar had a meeting with the Department. They requested the Department write a letter stating Maguire was in violation by living in her tack shack.

“Ms. Martinez is also requesting we contact (New Mexico Environment Department) to get Jean Maguire’s septic permit revoked,” Trujillo wrote.

She wrote that she contacted the Environment Department while the Martinezes were in her office, but that Michael Bencomo of the Environment Department said there was no justification to revoke Maguire’s septic permit.

On February 21, 2018 the Department conducted a site inspection of Maguire’s property, and again found that Maguire was in compliance with the Rio Arriba County Nuisance Ordinance.

“The property is kept in a neat and tidy order, at that time there are no violations on this property,” Trujillo wrote.

The same day, Charlie Salazar contacted the Department to complain of a strong stench. He told the Department it had been that way all day.

“Mr. Salazar was informed that a site inspection was conducted that moring, and no odor was detected during that inspection and her property is not in violation,” Trujillo wrote. “Mr. Salazar stated he was testifying against Ms. Maguire in court, at that time he was informed I cannot discuss anything with him, the County does not get involved in civil matters between property owners.”

In a Monday phone interview, Maguire’s other neighbor, Danny Atencio, said he sometimes smells the manure, but that he does not find it to be a problem.

“I’ve known (Maguire) since she’s moved here, she’s been a good person,” Atencio said. “I grew up with horses ... so it really doesn’t bother me. The only time it does bother, I guess my wife mostly, is when it rains, but that’s very few and far between.”

Atencio said his home is approximately 60 feet from Maguire’s horse corral, and it has not affected his ability to enjoy his property.

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(1) comment

ElRey

What is wrong with those Martinez's??? I would not want to be their neighbor. The Martinzes shouldn't be living in rural La Mesilla if they can't handle country living and smells of horses and the likes. All of La mesilla is rural like that. Go live in Albuquerque if you can't handle rural living and rural neighbors. I'd love to have those horses as my neighbors much much better than these petty Martinez. Glad they're not my neighbors. I'd sue them back.

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