The Other McCain

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Why Is Fauquier County, Virginia, Waging War Against Small Farmers?

Posted on | July 29, 2012 | 30 Comments

Zoning is the closest thing to fascism most Americans will ever know, and it’s remarkable how local governments use zoning laws to limit the rights of the little guy while rewarding the wealthy and well-connected. Big developers who know how to work the system can almost always get whatever they want from zoning boards, while the small property owner is at the mercy of politicians and bureaucrats.

Property rights of small farmers are under assault in Fauquier County, Virginia, where a local farmer has fallen afoul of the Zoning Fascists:

Located on a 70-acre farm near the village of Paris, Virginia, about 50 miles west of Washington, D.C., the Piedmont Agriculture Academy LLC (PAA) has quickly become a fixture in the local community. PAA functions as both an animal-rescue farm and a place where people can buy the many products originating on the property. Some 168 animals have found shelter on the farm, including alpacas, llamas, emus, a miniature horse, and a vast assortment of chickens, goats, ducks, sheep, turkeys, and cows. Dozens of the well-maintained animals are sheered every year, and their fiber is hand-washed and sold as yarn, socks, scarves, gloves, and nest builders. This year, the farmers who founded PAA have planted nearly 2000 tomato plants and 1000 eggplants on the property and have set up an apiary for producing honey.
A tastefully renovated barn serves as the farm’s on-site store, where vegetables, eggs, fresh and dried herbs, honeybee products, soaps, and handspun fibers from the livestock – all produced on the property – are sold to eager customers.
But if the Fauquier County Department of Community Development (DCD) has its way, the farm may soon have to cease operating. In June, the Piedmont Agriculture Academy was served with a “Notice of Zoning Violation” from the DCD.

Basically, Martha Boneta’s attempt to run a small business on her property has been outlawed by a new ordinance that retroactively restricts land use under the business license she received last year.

There is a hearing on the case this Thursday in Warrenton, and the Northern Virginia Tea Party is calling on its members to turn out in force:

1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2
10 Hotel Street, Warrenton VA 20187

For more information, contact Rick Buchanan of the Fauquier County Tea Party: [email protected].


30 Responses to “Why Is Fauquier County, Virginia, Waging War Against Small Farmers?”

  1. JeffS
    July 29th, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

    Sounds like Agenda 21, where harassing legitimate land use is a feature, not a bug.

  2. Dan Collins
    July 29th, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

    More dressage!

  3. Vera Eyzendooren
    July 29th, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

    Jeff took the words out of my mouth. This is part of Agenda 21 which will eventually tell us where we live, how much land we need, how big of a house we need, what part of the country we should live in and what we work. Soviet Union. I always say, I came to the United States for what America was, and now America is turning into the country I came from. Disappointed

  4. PGlenn
    July 29th, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

    RSM, your first paragraph of this post exemplifies why you’re one of the best bloggers on the right. Too many on our side tend to overrate the potential of federalism/subsidiarity to check tyranny and/or promote good governance. Yet, as you suggest, local governments can be quite coercive, even kinda fascist, at times. For example, Puritan towns were quite oppressive and included some of the biggest busybodies in recorded history.

    To be fair, though, it’s not just the wealthy and well-connected who dominate local property regulation, but also – just for one example – “squeaky wheels.” Sometimes, in suburban contexts, those squeaky wheels might be middle and upper-middle class homeowners; in exurban/rural northern California, it might be small boutique farmers who are squeezing the would-be suburban developers.

    And, btw, by writing that savvy developers “work the system,” that implies some backroom scheming; however, it’s more often the case that these developers are just really experienced and adept at jumping over all the zoning and other development regulation hurdles. That becomes their competitive advantage.

    So, different parties take their turns being the fascists. It’s more about flaws in the system, though, than greedy bastards.   

  5. Adjoran
    July 30th, 2012 @ 12:39 am

    State and local government are quite active in stealing liberty and they almost always get away with it because most of their constituents have no idea what is going on under their noses.

    But I agree it is wrong to blame the “big developers” who have figured out how to fight the regulators or how to sing the tunes the right way to please them.  It’s a matter of survival.  The real crime is that they have to acquire such specialized expertise and experience to do it.

    There was a case in Glen Allen, Virginia, some years ago.  It was a small rural community, unincorporated, outside Richmond.  As Richmond grew to the west, of course those suburban counties grew with it and before you knew it, Glen Allen was mostly developed.  Okay, fair enough, that’s the price of progress.

    But one guy held out, a small farmer who was born on his place.  He raised a few pigs and a garden, it had long since ceased to even be a commercial venture, just an old guy keeping on doing the only thing he ever knew how to do, and on his own property.  The neighboring property had been subdivided for housing, though.

    If you’ve never lived on a farm, pigs stink.  They poop and wallow in it.  It’s one of those “farm smells” that city folks just can’t get used to.  So they got together and got the county to ban pig farming in residential areas.  Now, the usual tack in such deals is to grandfather in existing operations, when they change ownership they have to abide by the new rules.  But no grandfather clause here, since the zoning was aimed at this poor old man.

    He didn’t have the money to fight, and no one came to his aid, so he gave up his way of life because the new people didn’t like it.  Even though they knew they were buying property by a pig farm in the first place.

  6. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    July 30th, 2012 @ 2:07 am

    These government commissars really frost me.  We have to fight for liberty and economic freedom.  These people are saving farm land and these government meddlers are trying to destroy it. 

  7. Adobe_Walls
    July 30th, 2012 @ 4:36 am

    They keep kicking the dog that doesn’t bite….one of these days that dog will have had enough.
    Whether this is agenda 21 in action or not the UN needs to be nuked, you know on general principals.

  8. BobBishop
    July 30th, 2012 @ 7:08 am

    This is the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC aka Enviro-nazis) doing the dirty deeds for a neighbor by getting the county to come after a farmer they don’t like…

  9. robertstacymccain
    July 30th, 2012 @ 7:29 am

    I’m from Atlanta, remember.  The rapid growth of the Atlanta suburbs offered many classic examples of the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

    The Cobb County zoning board, in particular, was always granting variances to zoning at the behest of big developers. Anybody with two eyes and a brain could see that it was a pay-to-play system. The homeowner who might want to operate a garage or a beauty shop on their property — “Oh, no, that’s zoned residential.” But let some big developer propose a shopping center in a residential zoning — “Variance granted!”

    And the developer’s contribution to the zoning commissioner’s re-election fund? Just a coincidence!

  10. PGlenn
    July 30th, 2012 @ 8:33 am

    I don’t doubt what you say about Cobb County. I’ve definitely heard some stories.

    Because there are real cases of “pay to play,” however, does not mean it’s typical.

    Sometimes, one of the inconvenient culprits is local “grassroots”/populist democracy, except that only about 30 percent of the citizens might vote in the local elections and only small (often rotating) segments show up to protest at board/commission hearings. In such cases, the Golden Rule is applied not by big developers, but by 50 or so homeowners (sometimes referred to as “homevoters” because their high levels of local political participation are motivated by a desire to protect their primary investments, their suburban/exurban homes).

    The harsh reality is that localism, federalism, populism, Constitutionalism, high levels of democratic participation, the principle of subsidiarity – these approaches/frameworks can be quite healthy, but ultimately cannot hold back the tide of a shifting culture. When it’s all said and done, we have to win the case for one argument at a time.

  11. EricBlair
    July 30th, 2012 @ 8:34 am

    The names of the people on that board need to be published. As an informational item so that people can know who is responsible.

  12. Curtis Pew
    July 30th, 2012 @ 8:55 am

    “Zoning is the closest thing to fascism most Americans will ever know…”

    You must not have a homeowners association.

  13. Bob Belvedere
    July 30th, 2012 @ 9:02 am

    John Adams: Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

    Sadly, Americans have become the other.

  14. markbuehner
    July 30th, 2012 @ 9:17 am

    Where’s John Mosby when you need him?

  15. PGlenn
    July 30th, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    Also, the American Thinker article linked by RSM above seems to be a bit ironic to me. The author describes this zoning case in Fauquier County as an example of the “sprawl of Washington-style government bullying,” warning that it’s on its way to becoming like Loudon County in northern VA, where “high-rise offices of businesses with government contracts, lobbyists, and others feeding at the government trough.” 

    Yet, Stanley Kurtz just wrote a book (to be released soon) about how the Obama administration is secretly trying to re-empower the big inner cities, partly to reverse suburban/exurban sprawl, etc.

    In general, the “progressives” in DC like to think of themselves as “new urbanists” fighting against “sprawl.”

  16. PGlenn
    July 30th, 2012 @ 9:28 am

    I agree, but I’m still optimistic in spite of the odds.

    The moral, religious culture Adams was alluding to – for which the Constitution was made – simply works better in reality in terms of promoting prosperity, liberty, freedom of choice, general welfare and happiness, etc.

    Whereas “the other” is conducive to rot and despair.

    There is a chance that people will come to better appreciate (or sense) the differences, and begin to slowly shift in their attitudes, outlooks, and behaviors, even if they cannot consciously work out all the particulars (especially as the dominant media cultures will continue to try indoctrinating them into seeing the sky as red).  

  17. Chris
    July 30th, 2012 @ 9:42 am

     You have to volunteer to join a HOA,  zoning is forced on you by the government.  

  18. KathyHutchins
    July 30th, 2012 @ 9:47 am

    Maryland/National Capital Parks & Planning Commission and Prince George’s Co. tried this BS in the PG rural tier a few years ago — rezoning to require 25 acres per house and outlawing by fiat most of the small ag operations that were keeping farmers in the southeastern part of PG afloat after the Glendenning administration pulled the rug out from under Maryland’s tobacco farmers. They were aided by a so-called local citizens’ group that were in fact a collection of urbanites that had moved to a rural zone east 0f US-301 and retroactively decided that living next to actual farming fell short of their aesthetic standards. After a couple of episodes of  citizen engagement that fell little short of peasants with pitchforks descending on zoning hearings in Upper Marlboro, the feckless bureaucrats decided the issue ‘needed further study.’ They study it to this day. Go get ’em, Fauquier Tea Party.

  19. Why Is Fauquier County, Virginia, Waging War Against Small Farmers? « Jackie Wellfonder – Raging Against the Rhetoric
    July 30th, 2012 @ 10:20 am

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  20. Quartermaster
    July 30th, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    I once saw something akin to the opposite once in Sumner County, TN. A land owner had to get a variance to put up a shop on his property near Gallatin and his neighbors fought it tooth and nail. The property, unfortunately for the neighbors was zoned agricultural (the reason for the variance) and when the neighbors won, he started raising hogs instead. I didn’t hear anything else after that, but I suppose the neighbors started wishing they left him in peace because changing zoning of that sort was very hard when teh owner was using the property for the zoned purpose.

  21. Quartermaster
    July 30th, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

    Zoning started in Manhatten with the Ators and Vanderbilts wanting to keep the hairy unwashed away from their brown stone mansions. Now the hairy unwashed use zoning to oppress decent people. In general, zoning is a curse. Bob Belvedere’s quote of  John Adams above is on the button.

  22. Maggie Gray
    July 30th, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

    Yes, local government can get very nasty. If we didn’t have to pay so much attention to what the Federal govt is bothering us with, we could pay more attention to the local goons.

  23. Curtis Pew
    July 30th, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

    I guess in a sense I ”volunteered” by buying a house in a neighborhood that had one, but I had no idea what having a homeowners association was like when I bought my house. If I ever move again, “no homeowners association” will be one of my criteria.

  24. Doreen Mateicka
    July 30th, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

    It’s everywhere.  Look at all the cases in the press recently of people growing food in their front yards who are being harassed by their local governments!  The only way to win is to refuse to comply!

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  27. Joe Pimpernel
    July 31st, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

    The city of Houston has no zoning laws, and the result is that land usage is about the same as any other city, except that the good and bad neighborhoods are evenly distributed instead of being concentrated in certain areas. One block of a street might be poor, the next block high-end.

    The major difference between cities with zoning laws and cities without zoning laws is that lawyers don’t get to cash in.

    That really pisses them off.

  28. Ran Kelvin
    July 31st, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

    This is what happened to my small Southern city.  A liberal white commission along with a shyster black mayor has corrupted this town to the point where the FBI has actually started an investigation. Since the mayor is on every obama committee there is, we think somehow the evidence will disappear. Anyway, while some of us finally woke up to the fact that our city was hijacked, we began to read all of the paper we could get our hands on, you know minutes of meetings, mission statements, etc. We were floored. This Agenda 21 thing is for real! We found all kinds of weird things that they were going to do to us, all written into various action plans and the like. We are still in the middle of a major battle and don’t know how it will end but don’t give up on yours. Do what we did, start looking into what all of these boards and commissions are doing. And then get involved, run for office, go to meetings, demand accountability and bring your pitchforks.

  29. StatesManship
    August 1st, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

    ROT = Roberts-Obama-Tax.  Needs to be cut out of the American Body Politic. That will be true health care.

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