Whether it is a large professional training center or a small private estate for your personal riding goals, choosing the right green field property is one of the most important decisions to be made for creating a great estate. The old saying “Location, Location, Location” being the 3 most important factors for real estate also holds true for an equestrian estate – but it goes beyond just the geographic position.
Early on in your search for just the right property, it is wise to prioritize your musts, needs, and wants in what you are looking to create in an equestrian facility. Give a priority weight to each item on your list and as various properties are evaluated, you will be able to score one property against another to make an objective decision, and not be skewed by a very attractive item that is nice but not so necessary in the long run.
Equestrian Estate Concerns to Consider
Topography – Flat land elevation vs. rolling hills
In most cases, it is actually easier to get storm water to run in the direction you want if you have some changes in elevation and rolling topography instead of just a flat piece of property.
It is hard to get storm water away from structures and outdoor riding arenas, etc. if there is no slope of the terrain to deal with.
The velocity of the run-off of storm water can be dealt with but ponding water with no place to go can be very difficult to manage efficiently.
Finding a piece of property that is not a flat land, with elevation changes, also adds character to the facility itself and can create different elevation changes from one floor level to another. It often turns out to be a lot less expensive to cut and fill dirt material on site rather than hauling fill material onto the site.
Established Pasture – Property with even a little established grassland or pasture will help immensely even if it the grass is not thick and well established.
Fertilizer and reseeding will do wonders to the already established pasture vs. having to start from scratch and “create” new pasture.
Clearing trees and starting new pasture takes time and can be quite expensive.
Establishing a new pasture on cleared land must be done right and at the right time of year. (Generally, fall is best but late spring is another window of opportunity.)
Also, expect that it will take a good year and possibly, up to two years to get a grass pasture established and mature so the horse traffic doesn’t tear it all up.
Just because a piece of property is inexpensive and has to be cleared to create any pasture does not mean it’s the right direction to go for the long term.
Clearing and creating new pasture takes an investment of both time and money.
Governing Authority – Thoroughly investigate the local codes and zoning to see what the setbacks, buffers, etc. are with the property you are considering to as an investment.
Start with the Zoning of the property. Under the zoning, there will be the permitted uses. Verify that what you want to do is included in the permitted uses. Look also at the parcels that are adjacent to and near the parcel you are considering. Understand if they are zoned the same they could develop with all the permitted uses for that specific zoning. For some commercial equestrian estates, you may need to request re-zoning or request a variance. This can be done, but does take time and money to accomplish.
Many governing authorities have adopted their own flood plain maps based on the area FEMA maps but are much more stringent. This can greatly reduce the “usable” property you may have to work with. Remember that any water on the property is actually state waters; the state can dictate what you will do with it, and how far away from it you have to stay with any structure. Some properties that are long and narrow and have a 100′ animal confinement – barn setback may not even have space to place the barn right in the middle of the property.
Also, many governing authorities will require that the barn be located behind the residence in relation to the front of the property. Some local ordinances or community development Home Owners Associations (HOAs) may require the structures be constructed of certain materials. Be sure and investigate that particular piece of property prior to purchase.
Note most HOAs have Covenants and Design Standards, and an Architectural Review Board. You will need to gain approval from this group prior to getting the approvals from the city or county authorities. Also in some cases, you may be restricted to a certain number of horses per acre of the property.
Keep in mind that an undeveloped piece of property (green field site), once it is developed, will generally remain as developed for at least 50 years (except in rapidly growing urban areas). This is why the governing authorities and property owners should be very deliberate on the details of the development and impact on surrounding parcels.
Stein Equestrian is committed to helping clients make wise balanced decisions on property selection, site plan development, and all of the details to balance budgets against the optimum and durable long-term investment. We have been working directly with equine lovers for many years and always do this research up front, as finding just the right piece of property for your estate is the number one priority.