May 2016 Issue - page 4

Page 4
May 2016
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
Revised Newlin Township Ordinance is Even More Restrictive
By Suzanne Bush
After several contentious
meetings with residents, the
formation of a committee of
concerned citizens urging the su-
pervisors to rescind the so-called
Equestrian Ordinance, more than
two years of angry township
meetings and the Pennsylvania
Attorney General’s threat to
sue Newlin Township, a revised
ordinance has emerged. An olive
branch it is not.
The infamous Equestrian
Ordinance was passed in Octo-
ber 2014. The ordinance made
distinctions between commer-
cial and private equine facili-
ties. Those facilities deemed to
be commercial became subject
to restrictions governing how
many horses they could have on
the properties. The ordinance
required a commercial opera-
tion—that is a facility which
charges board for horses or
offers lessons—to have three
acres for the first horse and two
acres for each additional horse
on the property. Additionally,
the ordinance placed restric-
tions on the size and location of
indoor arenas, limited outdoor
equine activities to daylight
hours and mandated off-street
parking.
Senior Deputy Attorney
General Susan Bucknum in-
formed the supervisors of the
rural Chester County township
that the ordinance violated sev-
eral provisions of Pennsylvania’s
Agriculture, Communities and
Rural Environment Act (ACRE),
passed in 2005. She pointed
out that the Township cannot
regulate the number of horses
a farm owner can have on their
property, nor could the Township
require special exceptions for
commercial equine operations.
Additionally, the ordinance
mandated setbacks for pasture
areas that fall within the Town-
ship’s Floodplain Conservation
Overlay District. Bucknum noted
that the state’s Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP)
already regulates erosion and
sediment control on agricultural
operations, and she suggested
that the Township instead require
horse farms to provide proof
of written manure management
plans, which are mandated by
ACRE.
Commercial Equine
Activity Redefined
The revised ordinance
redefines Commercial Equine
Activity to include any activ-
ities involving horses or other
equines “done in exchange for
money and/or services,” such
as: boarding, lessons in riding or
driving, including clinics, train-
ing of equines, and equestrian
events. And it regulates events
defined as “Equestrian Events”
and “Special Equestrian Events.”
An Equestrian event is one that
“includes equestrian related
activities such as, but not limited
to, private parties organized for
groups where lessons in riding
or driving equines are provided;
judged competitions and school-
ing shows; sale of materials
related to equines; polo games or
tournaments.”
A Special Equestrian
Event is defined as “an event
that includes equestrian related
activities lasting for a duration
of two days or less and which is
open to the general public either
by advertisement or invitation.
Special equestrian events shall
include, but are not limited to,
pony clubs, fox hunts, and other
similar activities.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme
Court has established that horses
are considered agricultural, and
that horse farms are thus agri-
cultural operations. ACRE was
specifically created in order to
protect agricultural operations
from unauthorized local ordi-
nances—ordinances that would
impede a farmer’s ability to
conduct routine farm-related
activities.
Horse farms routinely train
horses, many routinely host clin-
ics and shows. And fox hunting
has been part of the fabric of life
in Chester County for hundreds
of years. The distinctions be-
tween Special Equestrian Events
(Continued on page 12)
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