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Suit Filed Over Saddle Club's Disposal of Horse Manure : Land use: The former owner of a 28-acre parcel in Rolling Hills Estates wants the club to remove the waste. The property now belongs to a nature preserve.

March 31, 1994|SUSAN WOODWARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Horse manure studded with barbed wire was dumped on a neighbor's property in Rolling Hills Estates over a span of several years and accumulated into a 50-foot-tall pile, according to a suit filed in Torrance Superior Court.

The Chandler Land Trust is asking the court to force the Empty Saddle Club to remove the waste, which it says rests on land the trust recently sold for a nature preserve.

For decades, the club disposed of manure in a small canyon on its property. In early 1990, the manure spontaneously exploded, prompting the club to smother the manure with dirt to avoid further fires.

All the activity alerted the owners of the trust, which had land on Buckskin Lane adjacent to saddle club property. Since the suit was filed, the trust sold its 28-acre parcel of open land to the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy and the city of Rolling Hills Estates for use as a nature preserve.

Aerial photographs showed that the saddle club had filled its canyon and built stables on the new ground, and had continued to dump waste on the Chandler parcel.

"They filled the canyon in on their property and when they got to the end, they didn't stop. They just kept on coming," said John Robertson Jr., one of the heirs to the Chandler trust.

Robertson and city officials said a series of negotiations took place in an attempt to get the property cleaned up.

When no agreement could be reached, the Chandler trustee, Farmers and Merchants Trust Company of Long Beach, sued the club. The case is expected to go to trial June 20.

Members of the club and its attorney, Robert Luty, declined to comment on the case.

The trustee's attorney, Herb Young, said a lawsuit was a last resort.

"It's been pending for a couple of years. We've asked them to remove the debris and manure which is on the boundary. They've refused," he said.

"They've refused access to their property so we can do soil borings and measure the depth of this manure and debris and the extent to which it would have to be removed. The Empty Saddle Club has basically stonewalled about doing anything about this."

Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Barbara Rauch said the city wants to remain a neutral mediator and does not want to see the club, a nonprofit group that has operated in the area for 50 years, hurt. But the city wants the matter resolved, since it is now part owner of the land preserve.

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