The Fayston Development Review Board has ruled that Katie Westhelle can continue to offer children’s summer farm camps on her High Country Road farm property and found that such a use meets the criteria of an accessory on-farm business under state statute.
The accessory on-farm business (AOFB) is a use defined as an activity that in accessory to a farm and includes educational, recreational or social events that feature agricultural practices.
The DRB’’s decision stems from an appeal of Westhelle’s home occupation permit allowing her to conduct the camp. She’s been offering the on-farm educational camp since 2001. The camp serves up to six children for up to eight weeks during the summer, operating weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Westhelle has 10 alpacas, four horses, seven chickens and nine rabbits on her farm.
In June, David Earl, a neighbor on High Country Road appealed her permit asking that the DRB reverse the town zoning administrator’s decision to grant the permit. Earl’s appeal argues that the camp results in a significant increase in vehicle traffic and speed on High Country Road.
The board heard the appeal at a well-attended hearing on July 5, with the board issuing its decision on August 1. The board found that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture had issued a determination that the property met the state’s definition of a farm.
The board found that Earl failed to provide evidence to demonstrate increased traffic on the road, related to Westhelle’s business. The board also found that any home occupation should be carried on within a minor portion of a dwelling or accessory dwelling such as garage or barn and for this reason, the board ruled that the farm day camp does not meet the home occupation definition and is not permitted as a home occupation.
In overturning the home occupation permit and acknowledging that the farm camp meets the AOFB criteria, the board also noted that the town’s land use regulations don’t currently regulate AOFBs and hence the board lacks the authority to further review or impose conditions on the farm business and that no zoning permit is required. However, Westhelle must meet conditions required by the enabling legislation, 24V.S.A 4412 (11) (B) which was established in 2022. Farms must be covered by required agricultural practices rules, be accessory to the primary farm use, be operated by the farm owner or people living on the farm or leasing a portion of the farm, include educational, social or recreational events that feature agricultural practices or qualifying products or sell qualifying products.
Towns do have the ability to review and regulate AOFBs under town site plan review and for compliance with standards adopted in town bylaws for similar commercial sues.