Washington Examiner Local Editorial: Fauquier County steps over the line

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Opin­ion: Local Edi­to­r­i­al
The Wash­ing­ton Exam­in­er
July 29, 2012

Farm­ers in Fauquier Coun­ty [Vir­ginia] are plan­ning to bring their pitch­forks to an Aug. 2 hear­ing before the Board of Zon­ing Appeals to protest the arbi­trary treat­ment of one of their own. On April 30, Zon­ing Admin­is­tra­tor Kim­ber­ley John­son sent Martha Bone­ta an offi­cial cease-and-desist notice for sell­ing farm prod­ucts and host­ing a birth­day par­ty for her best friend’s 10-year-old daugh­ter on her 70-acre Paris, Va., farm with­out a spe­cial admin­is­tra­tive per­mit.

John­son threat­ened to fine Bone­ta $5,000 per vio­la­tion if she did not stop the alleged unlaw­ful activ­i­ties with­in 30 days. In doing so, Boneta’s fel­low farm­ers say, John­son stepped far beyond her author­i­ty. They’re sup­port­ing her appeal before the BZA because they right­ly fear that left unchecked, this infringe­ment on one farmer’s free­dom to make a liv­ing will spread to oth­er agri­cul­tur­al enter­pris­es like a dan­ger­ous pest.

The Vir­ginia Right to Farm Act pro­hibits local author­i­ties from treat­ing agri­cul­tur­al activ­i­ty as a “nui­sance” — which seems to be what’s hap­pen­ing here, since John­son was report­ed­ly respond­ing to com­plaints from near­by res­i­dents. Bone­ta already had a busi­ness license the coun­ty issued her in June 2011 that allowed her to oper­ate a “retail farm shop” on her prop­er­ty. Her license appli­ca­tion specif­i­cal­ly not­ed her inten­tion to sell hand­spun yarns, bird­hous­es, soaps and oth­er hand­i­crafts in addi­tion to fresh veg­eta­bles, eggs, herbs and hon­ey.

The fol­low­ing month, the Fauquier Coun­ty Board of Super­vi­sors changed the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of “farm sales” to require a spe­cial admin­is­tra­tive per­mit for activ­i­ties that were in com­pli­ance with the ordi­nance just one month before. But doc­u­ments received under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act showed that Bone­ta is the only farmer in Fauquier Coun­ty who has ever been cit­ed — even though the county’s own web­site lists dozens of farms that sell sim­i­lar prod­ucts to end-use cus­tomers.

On July 12, super­vi­sors vot­ed to lim­it the num­ber of vis­i­tors allowed at food-and wine-tast­ing events to 25, and to lim­it such events to two per month, even though they were warned by the coun­ty attor­ney and Vir­ginia Sec­re­tary of Agri­cul­ture and Forestry Todd Hay­more that such restric­tions are ille­gal. Virginia’s grow­ing wine indus­try and its small arti­sanal farm­ers con­tribute mil­lions of dol­lars to the state econ­o­my while pro­vid­ing urban res­i­dents with a taste of coun­try life. But even in pic­turesque Fauquier Coun­ty, their future is cloud­ed by the grow­ing bur­den of capri­cious gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion.

Source:  http://washingtonexaminer.com/examiner-local-editorial-fauquier-county-steps-over-the-line/article/2503450

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