Equestrian Centers Defined
Horse owners who don’t keep their horses at home will need the facilities of an equestrian center. Whether the owners of the facility call themselves a boarding stable, horse farm, riding academy, or just plain barn, they fall under the umbrella of being defined as equestrian centers. Among these, the vast majority remains private property which legally may only board the property owner’s horse(s), and may not be permitted to board other horses for a fee. These facilities range from a back yard barn to an elegant equestrian palace. But if they operate without approval as described below, they remain private and may not be used for public boarding of other people’s horses. An approved equestrian center boards others’ horses and charges a boarding fee. Not all boarding facilities require approval; I will be discussing only approved equestrian centers here.
Equestrian centers which have the most generous approvals and are situated in the best commercial, and/or “high horse concentration” locations, will enjoy the greatest opportunity for success but, as with all businesses, proactive management will be needed to ensure income maximization.
Understanding “equestrian centers” and how to differentiate between and among them will require an understanding of the various approvals, locations, features, and programs of the equestrian property. In this first column I will discuss the different types of approvals.
Approvals: Learning the content of the approval documents for a given property remains vital. For example, two approved, similar-in-appearance equestrian centers may vary greatly in value based upon the conditions within the approval documents. A wide variety of uses may be approved, or not. Commonly, the approvals include boarding, and training, but may also include breeding, clinics, shows, sale of horses and horse related items such as tack, equipment, horse trailers, etc. The more items that can be approved, the more potential exists for creating profit.
Approval types: Four types of approvals exist, any one of which may be used to create an approved equestrian center. All of these types may render limitations on a specific property, such as the number of horses that may be boarded, restrictions against having a horse breeding program, hours of operation, etc.
- Zoning: Some municipalities have areas zoned with equestrian centers identified as one of the explicit uses “by right”.
- Land Use: In addition to zoning, some areas have “use designators” (a.k.a. animal designators). In these areas, equestrian centers are specifically listed as approved uses “by right”.
- Major Use Permit/Conditional Use Permit: For a property not zoned, or lying within an area with the animal designator for an equestrian center, the Use Permit process may be allowed. In these areas, a land owner may apply for the right to have an equestrian center through a discretionary bureaucratic process, usually with public hearings. The equestrian center’s final use permit, if approved, will specifically describe the allowed uses, and the limitation of uses, for the subject property. The Use Permit “runs with the land”, creating a permanent commercial land use for that particular use of that particular property, regardless of its designated zoning or planned land use.
- Grandfathered: (Legal, non-conforming use). Not usually with a written approval, some properties will be acknowledged as legitimate equestrian centers due to continuous use as such for many years – usually to the time preceding official zoning and/or approved land use planning in that area. Occasionally, a grandfathered parcel will be challenged by a neighbor or others. If that should ever occur, it remains up to the owner to provide evidence via photographs, receipts, advertising, or other documentation which demonstrates the grandfathered status.
Next month I will discuss types of facilities, the importance of location, and a variety of programs used to generate positive cash flow.
Ken Shuttleworth has been an active California real estate broker since 1970, specializing in investment real estate. He holds a B.S., MBA in Real Estate, and Doctorate degrees in Business Administration. In 1981, he earned the prestigious CCIM certification from the National Association of REALTORS®, the highest designation in Commercial Investment Real Estate. For additional information visit California Equestrian Properties.