Cathy Dyson writes about King George County.
Homeowner wants horses on 10-acre plot, but clause in zoning ordinance says neigh
David Reese thought he’d done everything necessary to be able to raise horses on his 10-acre property in King George.
But he recently learned that a clause in the zoning ordinance prohibits him from having a pony, pinto or palomino because other lots in his subdivision are smaller than his.
The discovery was befuddling to Reese, who works for a defense contractor. He thought horses were allowed because the zoning—which is rural agricultural—allows a variety of enterprises, including raising farm animals.
“You can have cows and chickens on the land but not horses?” he wondered. “My wife, Amy, has wanted horses since she was 6.”
Reese brought his plight before the Board of Supervisors Dec. 6, and each member agreed the clause in question needs to be examined.
“I’d like to see what we can do to help Mr. Reese,” said Supervisor Cedell Brooks Jr., “so he can be able to raise his horses on his property.”
Dale Sisson Jr. agreed, saying the county should provide him a way to do the right thing. “The reality is, you could have said you were building a tractor barn,” Sisson said.
The Reeses bought 10 acres in Fox Run in 2001 with the specific purpose of
having horses one day. The couple checked with a title agent and their Realtor, as well as with the homeowners association, to make sure horses were allowed.
They cleared much of the wooded lot themselves and had a house built. As their family grew—they have two sons and two daughters—they eventually built a barn and removed trees for horse pastures.
“We put 10 years into this,” Reese said. “We don’t come from a lot of money.”
He recently went to the Community Development Office in King George to get an exemption for the barn. His subdivision is in a rural agricultural district, and the ordinance says buildings for agricultural purposes are exempt from needing a building permit.
Director Jack Green points out the buildings still need a zoning review to make sure they meet certain setbacks.
“Our records indicate that he did not obtain any permit for his building,” Green said.
As Reese asked about his exemption—and told county staff he was putting horses in the barn—he was told that horses aren’t allowed.
Green cited the clause that says a horse requires a minimum lot of two acres, plus one acre for each additional horse, “except that horses may not be kept in a recorded subdivision with lots of less than five acres.”
Fox Run has 71 lots, Green said. Twelve are like the Reeses’, with more than five acres, but the majority—59 of them—are smaller, with less than five acres.
The zoning ordinance would have to be changed to allow horses in Fox Run and other county subdivisions with the same mix of lot sizes, Green said.
He said this week he plans to present a report to the supervisors, probably in late January or early February.
Supervisor John LoBuglio told Reese he believes the county can change the wording so people with 10 acres can have a barn—and a horse to put in it.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a problem,” LoBuglio said. “We just have to go through the steps.”