If you own a farm here in Fauquier you are “special”. If you own a farm here in Fauquier you are now, after July 14, 2011, being treated in a “special” way. You are now so “special” that if you have a working farm that is being farmed by you to make a living, before you can sell a tomato from your garden or an egg from your chicken or a bale of hay from your field over your fence, you must obtain an Administrative Special Permit. Without this special permit you run the risk if being cited and fined up to $5,000.00 for that tomato sale. This is what makes you so “special” here in the beautiful farming country of Fauquier.
Last Thursday the Fauquier County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) conducted a hearing to enforce several “violations” committed by a farm in Paris Virginia. If you are a farmer, if you are attempting to make a living from your farm and if you conduct retail sales or tours on your own farm, this is a hearing that you need to be aware of. It would appear farmer-friendly Fauquier ain’t so friendly anymore.
For those who were not watching, the “Farm Sales” use category identified by Section 3-318.21 of the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance was added to the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance through approval of a text amendment by the Board of Supervisors on July 14, 2011. This means if you sell ANYTHING on your farm to an “end user”, you must obtain an Administrative Special Permit. Evidently any prior permit or license you had to sell the hard work produced on your farm now means nothing. You have to start over. That is what this Paris farmer is being told. You see, they obtained a business license issued by Fauquier County for a “retail farm shop” use in June of 2011. If you have a business license to sell your tomatoes, etc., issued before July 14th, it will mean nothing if the ruling of the Zoning Commissioner against this Paris farmer is allowed to stand.
If you think this does not exactly feel right and there “ought to be a law” to protect farmers from this kind of Big Brother overstep, you are correct. Virginia’s Right to Farm laws, Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-300 et. seq., preclude the enactment of any ordinance which would require a special exception or special permit for production agriculture activities in agriculturally zoned areas. Kimberly Johnson, Zoning Administrator, judge and jury for zoning matters in the county, disagrees. She has stated that it is her belief that state farm laws do not apply here in Fauquier farm country.