Horseback Riding Business Sues Fairfax County in Dispute over Burdensome Regulations

Person horseback riding in a forest.
by Tyler Arnold


An equestrian center is suing Fairfax County over a dispute about whether the center should be deemed agricultural in nature and therefore exempt from certain regulations.

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, is providing the center with legal representation. Petersen is the chair of the senate’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Virginia law prohibits local governments from interfering with farming activities on land zoned as agricultural. Yet, the county is trying to subject the Harmony Hills Equestrian Center to urban code requirements and ordinary commercial property requirements because it does not consider the center to be a farm.

The center runs a horseback riding business on a 14-acre piece of land in rural Mason Neck and the land is zoned R-E, which allows for agricultural uses. Owner Terry Abrams received a special use permit to operate the business, but is now being subject to costly commercial and urban regulations.

Some regulations in the urban code would require the business to provide a paved parking lot, ADA bathrooms and a water fountain. It would also require the business to construct a barn subject to commercial codes, which would vastly increase the cost of operating the business, according to a news release.

Abrams requested the county consider the property agricultural and exempt from the regulations, but the county denied the request last August. She appealed the decision, but it was upheld by the Board of Zoning Appeals this month.

The business filed a petition with a circuit court to overturn the county’s decision.

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Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.

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