Navigating codes and permit issues can create confusion and headaches for clients who seek to build a horse barn in a state or municipality that lacks special classification for agricultural buildings. Several states, including Pennsylvania, offer building permit exemption if a horse barn can be classified as an agricultural building. This usually means that the barn is privately owned and used and is not a place of employment or residence. If a jurisdiction does not allow a horse barn to be classified as “agricultural,” the property and its buildings are subjected to rather excessive restrictions. (I should note that agricultural buildings still must meet the established zoning and building code requirements.) At Blackburn Architects, we run into excessive restrictions in many states and local jurisdictions if the equestrian facility cannot be classified as agricultural.
That’s why when I came across the following article about a horse farm owner in Pennsylvania, I knew I had to share it. Ron Samsel, the owner, simply wanted to build a private horse barn for his friends and family to enjoy. Instead, he entered a battle with his township that landed them both in court: all over a building permit. While Samsel eventually won the case– his horse barn was declared an agricultural enterprise and, therefore, a building permit was not required– he spent a large chunk of time and money fighting a battle against the township he felt was acting irrationally and irresponsibly.
The court ruling may set a precedent for similar cases or disputes, of which I’d guess there are many, in Pennsylvania and possibly even surrounding states. I am glad attention has been brought to this issue and can only hope for greater clarity and consistency in what has become a convoluted issue for many equestrians who seek to build a horse barn to call their own.
EXCERPT FROM PENNSYLVANIAN EQUESTRIAN
Considering this nightmare, Samsel says he can understand why individuals rarely seem to fight township rulings, even when the townships are clearly wrong. “The townships always win because they push the little guy out,” he says. Each time he won his case in court, the township was given 30 days to appeal the decision. Each time, the township waited until the 29th day to announce that they would appeal.
I want to share this video clip as well as an article by Clay Nelson of Sustainable Stables about the age-old, though presently uncommon, practice of using draft horses for farm labor. I’ve been able to get to know Clay and his work with Sustainable Stables, which promotes green equestrian practices, over the last year after he contacted my firm to discuss our own sustainable design practices. The attached YouTube clip shows an interview of timber harvester John Hartman, who speaks about his two draft horses, Stella and Dolly, and their work at Highfields Farm in Danbury, North Carolina.
Under Mr. Hartman’s direction, Stella and Dolly are helping with preparations by extracting trees for which the owners at Highfields Farm will eventually process onsite to become a future barn, small cabin, and run-in shed. Through the use of actual horsepower, the owners of Highfields Farm are able to supply their very local resources in a manner that maintains a small footprint and is also less destructive to its environment. For further details about the horses and their work at Highfields Farm, read Clay’s article here (which starts on page 6) from Holistic Horse Magazine. This practice once again reminds me that some of the greenest techniques are often the simplest and perhaps most overlooked.