Morris County couple’s horse farm dreams marred by social media rumors
A Morris County couple thought they found their dream come true when they bought a 10-acre farm that had been in foreclosure. But instead, they found some major headaches – fighting a shutdown from the town and a social media rumor mill that can’t be corralled.
The couple wanted to start programs to teach kids how to ride horses. But in recent months, neighbors have grown alarmed. An anonymous flyer dropped in residents’ mailboxes voiced concerns that the area’s “peace, tranquility and beauty is now under threat.”
Brian Caine and Christie Caine-Sami bought Beautiful Farm in Rockaway Township in 2019. She is a full-time nanny from Boonton and he is a music teacher and volunteer firefighter from Mountain Lakes.
They fixed up the old house on the property, began raising chickens and honeybees and gave riding lessons and equestrian camps for kids last year. That was until they were shut down by the town in response to complaints from neighbors about crowds and noise and traffic. There have been stacks of violations, including 14 for “dog at large.”
“Like we would get three or four at a time, at a clip,” says Caine.
The couple says that the largest gathering they have had is a birthday party with 15 people.
“We have a little fairy forest back there so they can go into nature and play,” Caine-Sami says.
The couple is headed to the zoning board for a variance that would allow them to reopen. Meanwhile, this zoning issue is being fueled by the gasoline of social media gossip.
Some commenters accused the couple of just wanting a farm tax break. Others describe the potential for wild, drunken parties. Some have speculated that the couple really wants to start a marijuana farm.
“[They’re] going to do agriculture and then [they’re] going to turn it into a pot farm later on,” says critic Angelo Pezzino.
Although, Pezzino admits that no one told him this for sure.
“But it’s on everyone’s mind,” he says.
Pezzino, who has criticized the plan on Facebook, conceded that some of his own comments are hyperbole. But he says this place that has been a farm since at least the 1930s, is no place for a commercial farm today.
“They could sell their property tomorrow and buy a place in Sussex County, no problem. That’s the place for a farm,” he says.
“If it’s your dream and that is what you want to do, don’t move into a rural wooded residential area and then build up, make noise, increase traffic,” says neighbor Heather Teeter.
Teeter’s husband builds telescopes and is worried about lights from the parking area blocking out the stars.
But despite all the social media conversations and anonymous flyers from concerned neighbors, no one has actually come to speak with the couple about their plans for the property.
“I don’t know what to say, you know? It’s one of those things where you see the rumor mill and you say, ‘OK, but no one has asked us anything,’” says Caine.
News 12 has reached out to Rockaway Township for an official comment on the situation, but there was no response.