December 2015 Issue - page 1

Vol. 22 No. 12
Our 22nd Year
1993-2015
December 2015
PRSRT STD
U.S. POSTAGE
PAID
PERMIT 280
LANC., PA 17604
By Suzanne Bush
In Chester County’s Newlin
Township, the year-long contro-
versy pitting a number of horse
owners against the Township’s
supervisors has now captured the
attention of the State’s Attorney
General. Senior Deputy Attorney
General Susan Bucknam has
entered the fray on the side of the
horse owners.
At issue is an ordinance
passed unanimously in October
2014 by the three-person board
of supervisors. That ordinance
makes a distinction between a
commercial and a private equine
facility and creates several reg-
ulations for those farms that are
deemed to be commercial.
The ordinance requires a
commercial operation to have
three acres for the first horse and
two acres for each additional
horse on the property—the so-
called “3 and 2 rule”. Addition-
ally, the ordinance places restric-
tions on the size and location
of indoor arenas, limits outdoor
equine activities to daylight hours
and mandates off-street parking.
As supervisors chair Janie
Baird explained at the October
meeting last year, “if you have
your own horses on your own
property and do not offer lessons
or boarding, etc., the proposed
ordinance does not apply to you.”
Owners of properties that are
considered commercial under
this ordinance are required to file
for zoning exceptions, paying the
Township $1500. But the prop-
erty owner would also need legal
representation for the process, so
complying with the ordinance is
a costly endeavor.
Township’s Acreage Rule
Violates ACRE
Pennsylvania’s 2005
Agriculture, Communities and
Rural Environment (ACRE) Act
was meant to provide a mea-
State Sides with Horse Owners, Threatens Suit Against Supervisors
sure of protection for agricul-
tural operations throughout the
state, especially as suburban
sprawl consumes more and more
farmland. The act prohibits local
municipalities from enacting laws
or ordinances that restrict agricul-
tural activities in violation of state
law. Pennsylvania’s Municipal
Planning Code, adopted in 1968,
was predicated on the goal of pro-
tecting the state’s natural resourc-
es and farm land. It specifies that
state law may supersede munici-
pal regulations where agricultural
activities are concerned. The State
Supreme Court in 2010 ruled that
equine activities are considered
normal agricultural operations;
thus, local ordinances that seek to
arbitrarily restrict certain equine
activities are likely to be chal-
lenged by the state.
Bucknam, who administers
the ACRE program in the Attor-
ney General’s office, undertook
a review of Newlin Township’s
ordinance after receiving com-
plaints from several horse farm
owners. Her letter to the Town-
ship, dated November 5, 2015
highlights several points in the
Township’s ordinance that violate
ACRE by unlawfully prohibiting
or limiting normal agricultural
activities.
“We Are Prepared to
Bring Legal Action”
Bucknam’s letter is unam-
biguous in its analysis of Newlin
Township’s ordinance and the
ways that ordinance conflicts
with settled law in Pennsylvania.
The specific problems with the
ordinance include:
Horse stocking rate and
pasture requirements:
Buck-
nam points out that the “3 and
2” regulation in the ordinance
directly conflicts with state law.
“The Township cannot permit
agriculture as a use in a zone and
then limit the amount of animals
an operator can have based on
acreage because that is not a valid
zoning purpose and the State
regulates animal density levels
through nutrient management
requirements.”
Setbacks from watercourse
and steep slope requirements:
The ordinance as written man-
dates setbacks for pasture areas
that fall within the Township’s
Floodplain Conservation Overlay
District. However, the state’s
existing requirement for farms
to develop approved nutrient
management plans addresses
the issue of protection of water-
ways. Bucknam suggests that the
Township amend the ordinance
to require horse farms to provide
proof of written manure manage-
ment plans. The ordinance further
requires horse farm owners
to employ Best Management
Practices within the Steep Slope
Conservation Overlay District.
The state contends that require-
ment is invalid because “it is
vague and ambiguous and DEP
already regulates erosion and
sediment control on agricultural
operations.”
Special exception require-
ment for commercial equine
operations:
The Newlin Town-
ship ordinance requires so-called
“commercial” operations to apply
for special exceptions in order
to comply with the ordinance.
While Bucknam’s analysis points
out that townships do have the
authority to designate certain land
uses that require special excep-
tion, Newlin Township’s ordi-
nance is not acceptable, because
it creates a zoning paradigm
that is “irrational, unreasonable,
confiscatory or discriminatory.”
(Continued on page 9)
Rural and horse-rich, Newlin Township, Chester County, is home
to many of America’s top riders. An ordinance proposed in Octo-
ber, 2014, would have severely restricted their ability to do busi-
ness. Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, in a letter dated November
5, sided with the horse owners and threatened to sue the township
if the ordinance is enacted.
Inside...
Irv Naylor’s Almarmooq wins the
Pennsylvania Hunt Cup … pg. 8
Becca Hart wins 7th National Paralympic
Championship … pg. 13
Trail obstacle finals stress fun and learning
over winning …. pg. 27
Locals are winners at Morgan World
Championships … pg. 30
... and much more!
Holiday Gift & Specials
Guide … pgs. 14-26
1 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,...36
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