Equestrian Zoning Ordinance May Affect Popular Neilson’s Hill

Newlin Township owners Missy and Jessica Ransehousen. Newlin Township owners Missy and Jessica Ransehousen.

Neilson’s Hill is a popular galloping site for racehorses, eventers, and other equine athletes who need to be at the top of their fitness game. Located in the Unionville, Pa. area, in Cheshire Hunt Country, the hill has long been a well-used location for fitness work, and it may be in jeopardy now.

According to a press release sent out from Mid-Atlantic Equestrian Services, a new Equestrian Zoning Ordinance in the Newlin Township may go into effect in September 8:

“Well over a year ago neighbors of Neilson’s Hill threatened to file a legal complaint against the owners of Laurel Hill Farm because of the alleged traffic increase on their road. What began as a traffic disagreement escalated into a major revision of the existing zoning ordinance. The Newlin Township Board of Supervisors have proposed changes that would define any horse boarding and training facility, regardless of size, as a commercial activity (versus agricultural).

Instead of enforcing the existing ordinance which is far more reasonable, Newlin township’s Board of Supervisors worked with an attorney to draft a much more rigid set of regulations, which could have serious repercussions on township equestrians and farm owners.

The new ordinance would require 3 acres first horse and 2 acres every horse thereafter vs. the current 2 acres first horse and 1 acre per horse thereafter. The new ordinance also imposes regulations for manure piles (already covered at the state level), sets potential requirements for landscaping and screenings on property perimeters, restricts hours of operation, sets rules around holding shows/clinics and seeks to enforce steep slope requirements on pasture land.”

Any equestrian facility owner who has a resident trainer will be considered to be running a commercial operation (vs. agricultural) and will be required to fall within the guidelines
of the new ordinance. Blue Hill Farm, home to Jessica Ransehousen, 3 time US Olympic Dressage team member, and her daughter Missy Ransehousen, 4* Event Rider, Pan Am team member and coach to US Paralympians, are fearful what this will do to their operation. They will be required to file for an exception under this ordinance along with smaller boarding and training facilities in the township as well.

The cost to file for an exception is $1500, and the property owner will have to appeal to the zoning board for an exception or if turned down, comply with changes to their horse property. The biggest fear with the proposed equestrian zoning ordinance is not only financial impact on sustaining private and commercial facilities, but also the potential impact on property values and the ability to attract future farm owners to the township.

Private property owners, those who only have their own horses for leisure, can be exempted from the new ordinance regulations. However, if that private property owner takes on just one boarder to offset costs or to simply help with labor, then that property owner would be in violation of the ordinance and required to apply for an exception.

In an area that prides itself on the preservation of open space where many riders have access to private land, this new ordinance threatens to set a precedent that may lead to changes in other surrounding townships. It contradicts the past efforts of Mrs. Hannum and the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy to encourage and preserve the land and countryside which makes Chester County an equestrian destination and home to many great events.

A group called Concerned Citizens of Newlin Township has formed to oppose this zoning ordinance and is seeking support through an online petition on Change.org. Petition supporters do not need to be a resident of Newlin Township in order to sign, so please voice your opinion regarding this equestrian zoning ordinance, and if possible, show up in force to prevent the passing of the ordinance.”

If you are interested in signing a petition, you can visit this link. If you’re in the area, you’re also encouraged to attend the Newlin Township Meeting, held at 8 p.m. on September 8 at the Lenfest Building at the Cheslen Preserve.

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