“Jane,” a horse owner found her dream property. The house was just her size. Never before was a horse stabled on the property, but there was a storage barn that, Jane thought, could easily be converted into a horse barn, and the surrounding land could be fenced for pasture. Jane bought the property. Soon after, she built a stall in the barn, set up fencing, and moved in her horse.

Within a few weeks, however, a serious problem occurred. Jane received a notice from the city ordering her to remove her pasture fencing because it violated the local zoning ordinance. That ordinance required fences to be set back a specific distance from the property line. Adding to the problem, once Jane read the ordinance, she discovered that compliance with it would reduce her pasture to the size of a dog run. Her plans for a stable on her property were doomed.

Setback and fencing Ordinances

Local government ordinances and building codes often create requirements that prevent property owners from placing structures or fences from being located within a certain distance from a property line or another structure. These restrictions are commonly referred to as “setback ordinances.” Some municipal ordinances also limit types of fencing and fencing heights.

Suggestions to Avoid Problems

Anyone purchasing property with plans to build a horse facility would be wise to review the applicable zoning ordinances and restrictions BEFORE agreeing to make the purchase. In this example, Jane never checked any of them before purchasing the property.

People in Jane’s situation can apply for a variance seeking to allow the fencing, despite the law. There are no guarantees, however, that the municipality would approve. And although those who disagree with a municipality’s decision on a variance can file a lawsuit, the outcome is rarely certain. Careful, advance planning can make a difference.