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By tvcole · Jan 11, 2012 ·
  1. tvcole
    My family and I live in Prince William County, Virginia, on land that is zoned agricultural. We thought that "agriculture" had meaning. We have come to find out that it really doesn't: being zoned agricultural doesn't change anything related to agriculture. Perhaps it gives us some esoteric "in the country" tranquility, but it doesn't actually mean agricultural pursuits are encouraged or even tolerated. We discovered that although horses are permitted on property of 2 or more acres, chickens are not permitted if the principal use of the property is residential. A laborious and time-consuming check of Prince William properties in the PWC GIS Mapper ( shows that the smallest property with a residence that is designated principal use of agricultural is 20 acres. This means that according to the ordinance, on a 19 acre plot you could have 18 horses (1 for every acre over 2), but not one chicken, duck, goose, guinea, or even dove. Incidentally, rabbits are classified as livestock, and are also illegal on tracts that do not have an agricultural principal use. However, land with as little as 2 acres could have agricultural principal use if there is no residence on it. Very strange.
    We don't know when the change happened, but today's ordinances against agricultural pursuits is in conflict with the Prince William County code of ordinances. Sec. 32-301.01, referring to the A-1, Agricultural, zoning district; purpose and intent, states in part: “The A-1, Agricultural, zoning district is … designed to encourage conservation and proper use of large tracts of real property in order to assure available sources of agricultural products, to assure open spaces within reach of concentrations of population, to conserve natural resources, prevent erosion, and protect the environment; and to assure adequate water supplies. The intent is to encourage private land owners to protect these values and thereby create an environment favorable for the continuation of farming and other agricultural pursuits; to preserve prime agricultural land, forest land and/or open space; and to reduce the demand for costly public facilities and services that are inconsistent with the character of the rural areas within Prince William County.”

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