Brady v. Easton Zoning Board of Appeals
Regulations that prohibit "[t]he boarding of horses for commercial purposes" may not prevent an owner of land from boarding horses owned by friends for free. A planning and zoning commission ordered the plaintiff, Timothy Brady, to "cease and desist from the boarding of horses of non-residents and the giving of lessons to non-residents on horses stabled on [his] property by non-residents." The zoning board of appeals affirmed. Brady appealed and argued he was not engaged in "[t]he boarding of horses for commercial purposes" or "the stabling of horses for riding academies" on his property, which is less than 10 acres. Brady claimed that he operated a "co-op," in which he purchased shavings, grain, hay and bedding materials and expenses were allocated on a pro rata basis among the horse owners. Brady did not charge boarding fees or arrange riding lessons. The zoning regulations provide, "The boarding of horses for commercial purposes and/or the stabling of horses for riding academies shall be permitted only when the following conditions are complied with. . . . The site shall contain at least 10 acres." A reasonable interpretation is that the regulations prohibit the boarding of horses for profit, unless the property owner meets certain requirements. The regulations do not include any restrictions on the number of horses permitted or include ownership or residency requirements. Brady did not charge the horse owners, claim tax deductions or make a profit. The operation of a horse "co-op," which permitted nonresident horse owners to receive horse lessons from third-party instructors, did not qualify as the boarding of horses for commercial purposes. One of the horse owners, Justine Hahn, used one of her horses, "Patches," for profit. The ZBA reasonably could have found that renting Patches to an individual who received riding lessons qualified as boarding for "commercial purposes." The cease-and-desist order was overly broad. Except for Patches, horses owned by nonresidents were not boarded for "commercial purposes." The fact that horse owners pay a third party for riding lessons on their own horses does not qualify as "commercial purposes." The court vacated the cease-and-desist order and remanded.