VA: Farm sues county for $2 million over fines - Watchdog.org
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VA: Farm sues county for $2 million over fines

By   /   September 6, 2012  /   7 Comments

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

FREDERICKSBURG — A woman fined by local officials for selling agricultural produce on her farm and for hosting a birthday party there is suing Fauquier County for $2 million.

Paris Farm operator Martha Boneta is countering the county’s fines with a $2 million lawsuit.

Martha Boneta, who operates the 70-acre Paris Farm, lost an appeal at the county’s zoning board last month, and faces thousands of dollars in fines for allegedly failing to obtain proper permits for her activities.

Boneta, and a band of local property-rights advocates, argue that her county-approved license for a “retail farm shop” were sufficient.

“This case is about selective interpretation and enforcement, but also about the way the county appeal process worked — or didn’t work,” said Michelle Rosati, a Holland & Knight attorney who represents Liberty Farm.

“The zoning ordinance leaves so much open to interpretation by the zoning administrator that those regulations are very susceptible to this kind of arbitrary and unfair application.”

In filing suit with the Circuit Court of Fauquier County, Rosati alleges violation of Liberty Farm’s owners’ right to due process and equal protection under the law. The writ of certiorari seeks both compensatory and punitive damages of $2 million.

County officials — including county attorney Kevin Burke and Kim Johnson, who was sued personally as well as in her capacity as zoning administrator — did not respond to Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau‘s request for comment.

Read the complaint here.

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Kenric Ward is the San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org. A California native and veteran journalist who has worked on three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, he received a BA from UCLA (Political Science/Phi Beta Kappa) and holds an MBA. He reported and edited at the San Jose Mercury News and the Las Vegas Sun before joining Watchdog.org in 2012 and previously reported from Virginia. Kenric can be reached at [email protected]

  • There shouldn’t be any regulations on stuff like this. The founding fathers would be rolling in their graves if they knew. State and local government needs to take a good dose of liberty and freedom in the state of Virginia.

  • This is just another way to take away individual freedoms. Do we now need permits to hold birthday parties? Tell me, Fauquier County — do you pay the mortgage on the farm? How about taxes? No? How about utility bills? No? Then why are you telling people what they can and cannot do on their property, AFTER they already got a permit from you?????

  • JasonClarkeson

    God bless Liberty Farm! How much abuse does a farmer have to take? I can not believe the lengths this county went to break the law… Has a fund been set up yet for this farm? Where do I donate to help Liberty Farm?
    What has been done to this farmer is a crime against all Americans. This is blatant discrimination. This county complete abuse of discretion and authority is OUTRAGEOUS. I was mad before but now that I have read what this rodent Kim Johnson has done, I am shocked.
    May the judge that hears this case act with honor, ethics and with the knowledge that an entire country is watching to make sure justice is served against the heinous crimes of these beurocratic bafoons and that liberty is restored for this farm family, the wineries and this soviet occupied county.
    This case breaks my heart. How can this happen today?
    Hey all you politicians running for office – you want to get elected? speak up and restore the rights of this farmer and the people or I can imagine there will be riots over this discrimination and injustice case. That is correct, you heard me – this is the kind of case that gets people so upset that they go to the streets to riot!! I am not condoning or encouraging riots. I am only pointing out that this case is so over the top discrimination and abuse of authority it has reached a boiling point.
    It is a sad day in America when a citizen can’t carve a pumpkin, have a birthday party or make a living selling goods from neighboring farms or handmake crafts or even a tomato on a working FARM in VIRGINIA!

  • There is a lot of corruption and abuse of power, and simple incompetence, at the smaller (less visible) levels of township and county boards – nepotism, dereliction of duty to provide services. I know of a farmer who’s been going back and forth with their township for years. They have to keep a lawyer on retainer and that is not cheap. Government power and corruption is out of control at all levels, and the citizens have to go through SO MUCH to get action and justice with little to no consequences for guilty CIVIL SERVANTS.

  • IronJohn

    If the neighbors were bothered with a little girls birthday party, they really wouldn’t like an agricultural soil enrichment program with a couple hundred tons of turkey manure. It grows good crops but it makes a stout perfume. Consider it a repellent for those with their noses too high in the air.
    As to the so-called officials involved….vote the offending Supervisors OUT, sack the planning commission/zoning board, and have the errant bureaucrats fired. It’s way past time to put a stop to this nonsense.

  • Cindi Causey

    We all believe in the Farm to Table movement for our food, fresh produce, fruits, meats, cheeses. Back to basics, supporting local….Local farms, local wineries, local small businesses! We need to support local for local to survive! Wake up.

  • disqus_D6vxoGCtgP

    If you are ever selling produce in Virginia, even if it’s during a birthday party, you are required to have a permit. If Martha is disregarding these rules that are put in place for a reason there are consequences. Restoring the rights of the farmer also means that if your promoting your farm (selling food or other farm-made materials), you need to have the county ensure you have a safe place for all this to happen. For the health of the wider community, we must understand that Paris, VA has a legitimate reason to be concerned with this farm. It is important that we all understand that there is a lot we don’t know about Boneta Reserve’s relationship with the board of supervisors; all opinions should be respected equally.