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VA: Farm fight in Fauquier gets personal as protesters target official

By   /   August 3, 2012  /   21 Comments

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

Farmers and small-government advocates flocked to a Fauquier County administration building Thursday to show their support for local farmer Martha Boneta.

WARRENTON — Farmers and tea party activists bearing wooden pitchforks and waving bright “Don’t Tread on Me” flags may have lost the battle to bureaucrats in Fauquier County, but they’re determined to win the war.

The county’s Board of Zoning Appeals in a standing-room-only meeting on Thursday upheld a zoning administrator’s decision that Paris farmer Martha Boneta must pay hundreds of dollars in fines for selling farm products and hosting events such as a 10-year-old’s birthday party on her property without proper permits.

The county’s action has angered locals, who call it an abuse of government power that contradicts the Virginia Right to Farm Act.

Mark Fitzgibbons, a founder of Fauquier County Citizens for Family Farms, which advocates for family farms’ rights, said he plans to to file Freedom of Information Act requests to carry the fight forward.

Rick Buchanan, of the Fauquier County Tea Party, said the focus will be on BZA administrator Kim Johnson.

“One of the things we want to discover is how other farmers and non-farmers in Fauquier County have been treated by Ms. Johnson, and we will be filing FOIA requests soon,” Buchanan said.

“Fauquier wants us to go through the system they created, and we’re not,” Fitzgibbons told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau. “… Today is just the beginning.”

That beginning was a memorable one, as adults and even children voiced their support for Boneta and disgust with Johnson.

The protesters chanted, “One, two, three, four, send Johnson out the door!” And “two, four, six, eight, Johnson makes us all irate!” ahead of the meeting. And they crowded the front of the county building, garnering both curious and uneasy glances from county employees.

Johnson was not available for comment Friday, but Andrew Hashour, the county’s assistant chief of zoning and development services, said the county has no intention of fining Boneta the $15,000 total it could if Boneta continued her work without permits, for the three citations she was issued.

The county can only impose $200 fines per violation every two months, Hashour said.

“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty, we have never leveled that big of a fine against anybody, and we are not likely to,” he told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau on Friday.

Hashour said Boneta has roughly 30 to 45 days to make an appeal at Fauquier County Circuit Court.

Boneta’s attorney, Michelle Rosati, declined to comment Thursday as to what the next legal step will be. Boneta stayed out of the hearing.

“We feel very strongly that the law is on our side,” Rosati told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau.

Protesters gather in front of the Fauquier County administration building Thursday to voice their displeasure with farming regulations.

The fracas in Fauquier started with a neighbor’s complaint after Boneta invited Robin Verity’s daughter, Gwenny Verity, to have her 10-year birthday party on Boneta’s farm.

“We were actually shocked when we heard the whole to-do, that anyone would object to Martha inviting my daughter to her farm to have a party,” a passionate Robin Verity told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau.

“Being at the farm and being in a different environment than I’m used to is nice, and being with our friend Martha is nice because she’s always kind and gives us produce and everything,” Gwenny added.

The county in April cited Boneta for a series of alleged violations, including selling homegrown food and crafts like candles on her property without the appropriate license.

Johnson said Thursday that the county issues citations based on complaints.

“We don’t always cite for everything,” she said. “… That’s how it works.”

Boneta had obtained a county-approved business license for a “retail farm shop” in June 2011. A month after that, the county Board of Supervisors approved an amendment that restricted farm sales. And that’s when county staffers came after Boneta.

Hashour, who said it was “good to see the public’s participation” on Thursday, said county staffers don’t intend to go after local farmers.

“For us, it goes on as being sort of business as usual,” he said. “We’re not actively going to go after anybody.”

Hashour said the whole thing could be cleared up if Boneta purchased a $150 farm sales permit.

But Rosati and advocates of farmers’ rights say it isn’t about a permit.

“I don’t believe that ‘what’s the big deal, it’s only a permit,’ justifies regulation,” Rosati said Thursday. “Not in this case. Not ever.”

“I shouldn’t have to look to the government to be able to afford a living, other for them to stop taxing me,” said Lois Smith, vice president of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, a group that fights for farming rights at the state and local level.

Smith and others cited the Virginia Right to Farm Act, which says, “No county, city or town shall enact zoning ordinances which would unreasonably restrict or regulate farm structures or farming and forestry practices in an agricultural district or classification.”

Smith said this case matters not just to Boneta or small farmers, but to everyone.

“If you do not support your good, small farmers, then you will not have good food for good health,” she said. “That’s the bottom line.”

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Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau. Her work has appeared in places like Drudge Report, Washington Examiner, Reason and Human Events, and she has made appearances on Fox News and NBC4. An alumna of the National Journalism Center, Katie is a member of Investigative Reporters Editors. She graduated with a journalism degree and highest honors from Biola University in L.A., where she ran the student newspaper. Her work has earned her "Best in Show" and two first-place awards from the Virginia Press Association.

  • momsaid

    “Just get a permit” Hmmm…she already had one, then they changed the rules, which appear to be in conflict with the VRFA. Sounds like they need to deter the tin-hat dictators in Fauquier from their onward march to powerville. BTW, I wonder who filed such a strange complaint in the first place?

  • JP

    Local government needs local representation and this includes the school board as well

  • pat

    Martha Malawer Boneta, the Fauquier farmer, follows her own set of laws: arrested for petit larceny 2/10/09 in Fairfax County, along with public intoxication and public swearing; warrant of arrest/felony Westmoreland Co 11/25/08 bad check/larceny; and filing a false police report 3/1/10 Fauquier County. So get off the Fauquier County Zoning Administrator’s back. Kim Johnson knows what she’s dealing with and how to do her job.

  • JB

    She doesn’t live in the county either. Lives in nova. Funny how that fact is overlooked. Doubt she is “making a living” on what is basically a part time operation at best either.

  • FireKimJohnson

    Welcome to Fauquier County Hell! Where you have no liberty, no freedom, no rights and farmers and wineries are not welcome. A place where enviro-nazis tell the local government what to do and the county says the Commonwealth of Virginia laws do not apply to them. America – this is not over! Stay tuned to find out about the corruption, greed and illegal acts taking place in this oppressive hell on earth called Fauquier County!

  • Called you out Pat

    Kim Johnson is a witch who is inflated with power and is owned by the same people who own the county BoS, the wealthy landowners: Fauquier’s Home Owners Association. But since you like gossip which is what these same people thrive on: Max Tufts on the BZA also sits on the board of Fauquier Housing Coorporation. I believe he’s treasurer. They are currently under investigation for misappropriation of funds by HUD: makes that little drunk in public allegation look like child’s play doesn’t it. Now, let’s get to the facts, all a matter of public record via a FOIA request. When the unhappy and very spoiled entitled neighbors weren’t able to intimidate Ms. Boneta, they caled animal control. Apparently, the animal control officer found no evidence of abuse. Patty Thomas then threatened him with his job in an email transmission if he did not do what she wanted. This is just a tidbit with more to come. The Thomas’ resorted to all kinds of getto behavior. You all may be familiar with them: Thomas and Talbot Reality in Middleburg, the apparently the self proclaimed Godfathers of Horse Country real estate who have bought and paid for the supervisors and the BZA…and they don’t even vote in Fauquier. The county needs external audit, actually they need to be placed into receivership and the wealthy the “landed aristocracy”need an enema.

  • ExposetheCorruptinFauquier

    Patty Thomas – your an attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia, right? How would the Virginia Bar like to know what you are doing? Lets give the Virginia Bar a call shall we? Aren’t you married to PHILLIP THOMAS of THOMAS & TALBOT, right?
    What’s wrong Patty – are you upset that you got caught? We’ll be sure to let the world know about your illegal activity and oh by the way, NOBODY CARES WHAT you say or what criminal history is out there – it does not change the facts and has NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS CASE.
    Good luck. Your going to need it.

  • InMemoryofMySon

    Who cares where the paris farmer lives? it doesn’t matter you idiot! EVERY FARMER works other jobs. Why? Because it is very difficult to make money farming. I know, we are a farmers. Every member of our family works long hard days at the farm but we ALL also have other jobs because we need things like insurance and money to pay the costs of running a farm. This is the unfortunate sad reality of farming – we can’t make a living off the land the way our ancestors did so we have to find work elsewhere. Maybe if you communist local over reaching oppressive county government corrupt law breakers did not restrict us so much, we would not have to… You are obviously one of those communist pigs. This is America you idiot. Go live in the USSR if you don’t believe in individual freedoms and liberty and property rights. WE DON”T CARE where the paris farmer lives, what she does for a living, or anything else other than the fact that this farmer and all farmers are being assaulted adn abused by the local county. Personally, I don’t give a damn who this farmer is or any of this other BS that you freedom haters dish out. Just points out how completely desperate you are to throw this crap out there….
    By attacking this farmer, you are attacking EVERY FARMER in Virginia and AMERICA! I would give my life for this farmer’s freedom and the freedoms of every American citizen. My son died so others may have the liberty and freedom we are supposed to have in this country. His blood was not in vain. I dare you to take away to tread on this farmer’s rights. By doing so, you are treading on my dead son’s soul. It will not be tolerated.
    Give me liberty or give me death.

  • ethelatheilapitts

    Malawer is not her maiden name. Posting lies is so typical of the Peyton Place rumor mill that is Fauquier. Do you really want slander and character assasination to be on your record, for real p.a.t.?

  • Really!?!

    Pat, someone named Harry told me someone told him that Boneta is actually a friend of Ted Bundy, smokes cigarettes behind the barn and dresses up as the Strawman when feeding the animals. All without permits. And worst of all, she hasn’t paid taxes in 10 years. Really!

  • InMemoryofMySon

    Next Patty and her clan will say the Paris Farmer is responsible for the county being bancrupt and for September 11th. Hell, why stop there…w

  • http://www.facebook.com/marcia.galloway.1 Marcia Galloway

    These are the stepping stones to achieve “AGENDA 21 ” Pay attention to the abuse of words as “sustainable” and “GREEN” There have been many farms across the nation being “swat” raided, their products confiscated, records seized.(most recently charged- Gibson Guitar) Also beware of a group called ICLEI formed to collect money, over regulate you and confiscate your property under the guise of Agenda 21. Clinton signed Agenda 21 in 1992 at the “Earth Summit” in Rio to do what-Control Food,Fiber and Energy!!! The EPA seem to be the global Police.with no other than the UN as the legislators. Agenda 21 started in Santa Cruz and has been working East ever since. You notice Stockton and Santa Cruz are now bankrupt!!! Be careful of the “Green Movement” It seems to be how the UN and the EPA are mandating all these new regulations by way of what appears to be an innocent movement Rosa Koire has an informative video on Agenda 21 called “Behind the Green Mask”

  • GeorgeT3

    Reality Wake UP CALL for Pat and Phil Thomas – LEAVE HER ALONE. STOP IT. You are both an embarassment, obsessed and completely out of control. What is wrong with you? You have so much to lose and for what? Is it really worth it? Haven’t you figured it out yet? Your smear campaign is not working. The more you harass, humiliate, degrade and pick on this farmer – the more you are hated and the more people want to investigate you. Nobody cares who this farmer is, where she lives, weather she has been drunk in public, divorced fifty times or if she is married to Donald Trump or on welfare. People relate to human experiences good and bad and most of all hate injustice and bullying. What we have here is a very human farmer not proclaiming to be perfect, not saying they are better than anyone else, not asking for anything from anybody but demanding quiet enjoyment to farm. This is her right. Like it or not the law is on this farmer’s side. You can call Peter, the PEC, the Sherriff, Peggy Richardson, the county attorney and all the back door favor shinanigans and it is not going to change the facts. Congratulations – you are now in a muck pile, if you want to come out smelling like roses you better stop attacking this farmer and do some soul searching while you are at it.
    I am embarrased for you. I have a criminal record – DWI, tresspass, etc. and yet you all kiss my arse every chance you get. This bullying is seriously disturbing and it is going to stop now.

  • MarkInKansas

    Board Members

    Board Member or Staff
    Representing

    Term Expiration

    Kitty Smith

    Citizen at Large

    12/31/2015

    Ross D’Urso

    Fauquier County Commissioner of Revenue

    12/31/2015

    Ken Smith

    Citizen at Large

    12/31/2013

    Patty Leonard

    Cedar Run District

    12/31/2015

    Katherine Strother

    Scott District

    12/31/2015

    Mildred Riddell

    Citizen at Large

    12/31/2015

    William W. Gulick, Jr.

    Center District

    12/31/2015

    Peter B. Schwartz

    Board of Supervisors

    12/31/2012

    William Worrall

    Marshall District

    12/31/2015

    John Schied

    Citizen at Large

    12/31/2015

    Kimberley Johnson

    Phone: 540-422-8220

    Fax: 540-422-8231

    Address: 29 Ashby Street, Suite 310, Warrenton, VA 20186

    Email Address: kim.johnson@fauquiercounty.gov

    Zoning Administrator (Staff)

  • PumpkinCarver

    FARMER MARTHA: You are an American Hero!
    Please bring your pitchfork to Washington, DC and clean up the muck.
    May you hear our prayers from all over the nation.
    We love you Farmer Martha. You are our hero.
    May God bless this Paris farmer and her family. Go Farm Girl! Go!

  • wrath of god

    We are logging all these petty nazi functionaries and when the USA returns to lawful government will put them all in FEMA reeducation camps to be reeducated in Constitutional Principles.

  • Tommyboy

    Find out who this complaining neighbor is and make life miserable for her.

  • Tommyboy

    So what? Maybe your the complaining neighbor.

  • John

    Vote every dumbass out of office, the people that are appointed by elected officials would then lose their jobs too. only vote in people that understand private property rights and respect a persons right to do with their land as they see fit. get rid of all these bureaucratic regulations and give freedom back to the citizen.

  • John

    I wonder if Phil ever found out that I WAS THE GUY his Pat had an affair with? she wasn’t that good Phil, sorry guy.

  • FYI

    Careful, what you write. She charged me with internet harassment and have a date in FAIFAX Sep 3, 2013, I was on a website called Paris Barns talking about recipes and was not aware of Ms Boneta or her affiliation with the teaparty. I cannot say much except that I have lived in Fauquier 22 years.
    she originally asked for a restraining order for a credible threat of violence. If anyone knows me I have a weird sense of humor, am a arts and education fanatic, Love the beauty of our county, and deplore anything that has to do with gun violence. Bring you pitchforks!

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