Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Terrence L. Nyhous, Chairman, Center District Supervisor


February 18, 2010


Staff Lead:


Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator


Community Development



A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Sections 3-300, 5-900, 5-1800 and 15-300 Related to Equestrian Facilities


Topic Description: 

The text amendment reclassifies equestrian boarding and instruction from an “Outdoor Recreation” use to an “Agricultural Use,” making boarding and training involving up to ten (10) persons per week by-right uses in every district where horse farms are allowed.  The amendment also classifies more intensive instruction activities, and associated non-sanctioned training shows as “Agriculture Use,” allowing them by-right in Rural Agriculture (RA) districts and with approval of a special permit in other districts allowing horse farms, except that any property with a non-common open space easement would require special exception approval.  The amendment creates a new category “Horse Show,” an equestrian event where spectators are non-paying and generally limited to family and friends, and allows such “Horse Shows” in the RA district, including non-common open space, with approval of a special exception. More extensive equestrian events continue to be categorized as “Outdoor Recreation” uses, with approval of a special exception required under the Class A, B or C use categories.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.


Staff Report:

Section 2-705.1 of the Zoning Ordinance, related to non-common open space, limits uses on properties with non-common open space to those listed as Category 18, Agricultural Uses, in Section 3-318 of the Ordinance.  Recorded non-common open space easements contain this explicit language limiting uses on the property to those identified in Section 3-318 of the Ordinance.  

An issue recently arose where a property owner, Reta Rodgers, sought to hold equestrian events at Eastwood Farm, located on Old Auburn Road directly across from the Fauquier County Fairgrounds.  The property has a non-common open space easement that was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2005.  Under the existing Zoning Ordinance regulations, the proposed type of equestrian events could potentially be authorized under either the Equestrian Facilities or Spectator and Non-Spectator Field Events uses in Category 9 (Outdoor Recreation) of the Zoning Ordinance:

3-309.8            Equestrian Facilities (boarding and instruction) (non-spectator);

3-309.9            Equestrian Facilities (boarding and instruction) (spectator facilities);

3-309.14          Spectator and Non-Spectator Field Events (Class A);

3-309.15          Spectator and Non-Spectator Field Events (Class B);

3-309.16          Spectator and Non-Spectator Field Events (Class C).

In each of the use categories listed above, approval of any equestrian event would require a special exception.

However, because the Rodgers property is in a non-common open space easement, these Category 9 uses are not available to the property.  The request raised the issue of whether or not equestrian activities, including boarding/instruction facilities and equestrian events such as horse shows, steeple chases, etc., should be allowed on properties in a non-common open space easement.  It further raises the question as to the amount and extent of equestrian related events allowed under each of the existing categories in Section 3-309 of the Zoning Ordinance, as the different use categories and standards do not clearly establish a distinction.

As the text amendment moved through the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors’ public hearing process, broader questions were raised about the Zoning Ordinance treatment of equestrian activities in general.   Concerns were raised that the proposed amendments might make activities that have occurred for years in the County illegal and an assessment of the words of the Ordinance relative to existing activities did suggest that there were many activities already occurring in the County that would not clearly be allowed under either the existing Ordinance or the originally proposed language.  Additional amendments have been made to the originally proposed amendment to provide more flexibility for equestrian activities in the County, in recognition of this history and the importance of equestrian activity in the County.


The current proposal:

1.   Allows boarding and limited training (maximum of 10 people per week) by-right in all districts where a Horse Farm is allowed (RC, RA, RR-2, V, R-1).  This is accomplished by creating a definition for Horse Farm which includes boarding and the limited training.  

2.   Allows more intensive instruction (over 10 people a week) and non-sanctioned training events and shows associated with such instruction by-right in the RA district and with approval of a special permit in all districts where Horse Farms are allowed, except that a special exception is required where property is in non-common open space.   (Note:  The Special Permit requirement automatically becomes a Special Exception requirement where property is located in non-common open space, pursuant to Section 5-001.4.B.)

3.   Creates a new sub-category of equestrian events classified under agricultural uses, which can be approved in the RA district by Special Exception, including on-non-common open space.   Horse shows are defined to be those types of events occurring within a confined area such as a ring or arena and where spectators are non-paying, primarily friends and family of the participants.

4.   Leaves all other Equestrian Events to be approved under the Outdoor Recreation Class A, B & C use categories, with approval of a Special Exception.

The proposed text amendment makes no changes to the Ordinance that would affect hunting or point-to-point activities.  


The Board of Supervisors initiated the proposed text amendment on August 13, 2009.  The Planning Commission held public hearings on the issue on September 24, 2009, October 29, 2009 and December 9, 2009 and unanimously recommended approval of the proposed amendment on December 9, 2009.   The Board of Supervisors held an initial public hearing on this item on January 14, 2010.


Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Agricultural Development Office

Land Owners

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