Residents sue Osceola County over proposed equestrian therapy center



OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Osceola County is being sued over a decision to spend county money to develop a horse therapy center at a public park.

Some county commissioners want the facility built near St. Cloud to help disabled veterans and others.

But the people who live in the area here don't want a private company taking over public land. They've filed a lawsuit.

Friedberdt Katzenberger takes a daily stroll through Ralph Chisholm Park with his pet bird on his shoulder and his dog in tow.

Katzenberger is part of a group trying to block plans for the horse therapy center.

"We're the public. We're the ones who paid for this park," said Katzenberger.

The group filed suit after commissioners agreed to give more than $1 million to the University of Central Florida and the therapeutic equestrian group Heavenly Hoofs.

They will use the tax money to build a horse-riding center to help wounded veterans and those with disabilities.

According to the lawsuit, a barn and stables would be built on public land but wouldn't be open to the public. It would be used for private matters.

That doesn't sit well with this longtime resident Katzenberger..

"This is a beautiful park. Property that belongs to us, the people," said Katzenberger.

The suit claims the facility could cause damage to the environment and says it shouldn't be funded with public money. The suit also claims the project wasn't properly put out to bid.

At a meeting last week Commissioner Brandon Arrington blasted those opposed to the project, specifically the people named in the suit.

"The idea that disadvantaged folks in our community shouldn't have outlets and opportunities like the rest of us is insane to me," said Arrington.

The county plans to charge Heavenly Hoofs $500 a month to lease the facility.

Channel 9's Ryan Hughes tried to contact Heavenly Hoofs representatives for comment, but had no response.

Osceola County is going to court in early September in an effort to have the suit dismissed.