A fowl tax

This hen will now cost you $165 to “permit” you to have a chicken coop.

This hen will now cost you $165 to “permit” you to have a chicken coop.

The County is taxing Western Loudoun farm buildings, by the authority of the Commissioner of Revenue, by assessing pole barns for taxes that the County never assessed before this year.

Even among those barns that were assessed previously, farm owners have been confounded by by the amazing leaps in assessed value.

In one case, the increase in assessment was a factor of thirteen times greater, from a $2,000 assessment last year on a 60 year old barn to a $26,000 assessment this year, with the questionable explanation, by the assessor, that the owner of the barn had painted the barn.

Farmers say this arbitrary policy of assessments is hardly reasonable and is fundamentally unfair.

In another setback for farmers in the West, following upon these Assessments, the County, by a new Zoning Ordinance, circulated this past Friday, requires that farmers obtain a permit for each chicken coop that a farmer has or acquires.

This is how the current zoning permit procedure reads.

It is described as the “procedure for obtaining a zoning permit for a coop/shelter for chickens.”

It says, “the property owner shall complete a building and zoning permit application form … that is accompanied by a plat showing the proposed location of the structure with distances to property lines …”

The term, “shall,” makes this requirement mandatory, and not permissive.

The permit fee – apparently mandated for each separate coop – costs $165 each.

The coop is described as a “structure.”

Farmers have asked the Commissioner of Revenue in connection with the increased assessments, to explain exactly what the Commissioner meant by the term “structure.”  The Farmers are of one mind that they got no answer at all.

As for the coops, chickens generally live mostly in small mobile boxes that house or protect them from the elements and from predators.

These coops are not large stationary structures that required a zoning permit or a health department permit in the past.

It is hard to make out a fair rationale, Farmers say, when the County requires permits for chicken coops about the same size as a dog-house but require no permits for a dog house.

Farmers tell this correspondent that they believe that these policies are calculated to compromise farmers in the West, especially when they must acquire a permit for each chicken coop on their farm.

This concern about the number of permits seems fair reservation when the remainder of the newly issued “procedure” provides for an “approved area” for each coop within which “approved area” the coop may be placed.

These increasingly onerous provisions, both of assessment and of permits, have prompted farmers to ask if the County is trying to force farmers off their land to make way for residential development.

The County’s “Envision” Report focused on the rural lands of Western Loudoun and decided that “the remaining uncommitted or underdeveloped residential land that could be developed in the future is approximately 1/3 of available land in the Rural [Western Loudoun] and Transition areas …”

The report said Western Loudoun’s Rural land has an inventory of land “available for development” of about 82,600 acres.

Farmers have cited the proposed 50,000 residential units identified in the County’s so-called Envision Report as the likely reason for this tax and fee cost that may marginalize the economic stability of these farms.

9 thoughts on “A fowl tax

  1. Todd

    This is so outrageous, it is hard to believe it is true… but then again, I guess any type of governmental over reach is possible in this day we live. With all the talk Loudoun makes about supporting local food, and farm tours, these zoning regulations would pull the rug out from underneath farms. Not to mention what it would do to discourage the numerous families who simply want to let you their children experience where an egg comes from. This is the kind of story that will make national headlines and embarrass anyone supporting it… County Supervisors should run away from this as quick as possible. The backyard chicken movement is huge across the nation, as well as the local food movement, and it is not a segment of the population I would think any politician would want to alienate.

  2. Ashleigh

    It is pretty sad a county needs to tax things such as a chicken coop. It is a slap in the face to those families that dare to teach their children how to provide for their future family or give/teach them responsibility other than pulling out your wallet. It just shows that Loudoun County would much rather have the vineyards and the breweries because that is what brings revenue. NEWS FLASH, FARMS ARE FOOD! You tax the hell out of farms, you have no farms, then you have no food. I bet the people who supported these changes are ones that like Organic Beef and vegetables, where do you think that comes from? Like free range chicken eggs? Don’t bother looking in Loudoun County anymore…. people won’t be able to afford to keep them.

  3. Roger Cole

    I live in eastern Loudoun County in broad run farms and my neighbors are from Honduras they have a big chicken coop they had 73 chickens, the fox took all but 14 they still have a coop . In broad run farms anything goes. I imagine because they are from a foreign country they could pretty much do whatever they want and nobody will say anything . They have a shed next to the coop that houses Extra people. Nobody ever stops him from doing that .

  4. Pariahdog

    Mr Cole,

    This site does not allow commenters to discriminate based on nationality. We also do not allow people to use this venue to snitch on their neighbors.

  5. Matt

    I was a ninth generation western Loudoun resident until I moved. This is a prime example of why I moved. People move into the area, get government positions, and change the way residents have lived for generations.

  6. Pingback: Farm free Loudoun | Loudoun Progress

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