Lilac City Real Estate

Zoning and Horses

Zoning Regulations for Raising and Keeping Horses in Spokane County, Washington

As a Realtor, I have a surprising number of home buyers seeking to purchase property in Spokane, Washington area with the idea of keeping horses.  They like the idea of owning their own stable, fenced pastures and riding area.  Many "horse people" dream of building a covered arena for year-riding and horse training opportunities.  I could go on and on but hesitate to mention dreams of a well stocked and organized tack room, paddocks, riding trails and beautifully constructed, sanitary, well-lit sables with sturdy sliding doors, hay barns, etc.

Recently a new factor has crept in the perfect horse set-up dreams.  People have been inquiring lately, "How close can we get to downtown and still be able to achieve our dream of keeping our horses?"  Search Spokane Real Estate.

This is a good question, and probably not as simple or clear as claimed by real estate sellers or readily apparent to buyers.  Land use regulations, zoning, code enforcement, pre-existing and grandfathered land uses all become issues to consider when purchasing a home and land with an additional purpose of keeping horses.

Simply assuming just because a seller of property has a barn, stables, fenced pastures and horses doesn't mean that a new buyer will enjoy the same land use rights.  It doesn't mean that the seller isn't in violation of zoning regulations and the activity simply hasn't come to the attention of authorities or caused a code enforcement complaint by any of the neighbors.  Don't assume that claims that horses are permitted on a particular piece of property are correct without making sure you are correct.  Don't assume that because the neighbors of a property keep horses that the property you think would be wonderful for your family and your horses – it might be against the zoning code to have horses in the neighborhood.

My research reveals many properties the public generally assumes are approved for the purpose of keeping horses really are not zoned for it.  Currently, Spokane County permits animal raising and/or keeping in eight different zone classifications as follows:

Urban Residential Zones

Rural Zones

Resource Lands

The closest properties the permit horse that are also close to in town conveniences are zoned LDR-P and will have a minimum of one acre.  Next closest would be Urban Reserve (UR), Rural Traditional (RT) and Rural-5.

Here is a technique for learning the zoning classification of a certain piece of property on the Internet:  Visit Spokane County's map web site at:  You must use Internet Explorer as this is currently the only browser supported by this utility.  Next, in the area to the right of the map, click on "search" and then "parcel number" to enter the tax parcel number of the property in question.  Finally, select "layers" and scroll down and select the last item on the list – zoning.  Wait for the map to update the layers and you should see the abbreviation of the zoning classification near the property in question.

If you prefer not to be quite as high-tech an alternate method to learning the zoning of a particular property is to phone the Spokane County at (509) 477-3675.  You will be greeted by a recorded voice with various options.  One option is to leave a voice message with your return phone number, the property parcel number, address and your question.  You will be called back within a business day with the response to your zoning question.

Another method to check zoning classifications is to download the Spokane County Comprehensive Planning Map and check out the color coding for each area on the map:  Here is the URL

For your convenience I have quoted these zoning definitions from the 2009 Spokane Zoning Code as found on the Spokane County web site:

The Low Density Residential Plus (LDR-P) zone is primarily for single-family residential development that allows a maximum density of 1 unit per acre for single-family dwellings.  This zoning classification shall be applied only to areas established prior to the effective date of this provision with an existing development density of approximately 1 unit per acre.

Rural Traditional (RT) zone includes large-lot residential uses and resource-based industries, including ranching, farming and wood lot operations. Industrial uses will be limited to industries directly related to and dependent on natural resources. Rural-oriented recreation uses also play a role in this category. Rural residential clustering is allowed to encourage open space and resource conservation.

Rural-5 (R-5) zone allows for traditional 5-acre rural lots in areas that have an existing 5- acre or smaller subdivision lot pattern. Rural residential clustering is allowed to encourage open space and resource conservation.

Rural Conservation (RCV) zone applies to environmentally sensitive areas, including critical areas and wildlife corridors. Criteria to designate boundaries for this classification were developed from Spokane County’s Critical Areas ordinance and Comprehensive Plan studies and analysis. This classification encourages low-impact uses and utilizes rural clustering to protect sensitive areas and preserve open space.

Urban Reserve (UR) zone includes lands outside the Urban Growth Area that are preserved for expansion of urban development in the long term. These areas are given development standards and incentives so that land uses established in the near future do not preclude their eventual conversion to urban densities.

Large Tract Agricultural (LTA) zone establishes large tract agricultural areas devoted primarily to commercial crop production including small grains, non-forage legumes, grass seed and animal production. Non-resource related uses other than rural residencies are discouraged.  Residential density is 1 unit per 40 acres and residential uses should be associated with farming operations. A small lot subdivision provision is included in this zone to allow retiring farmers the ability to continue to live on their homesite after they are no longer actively involved in the farming operation.

Small Tract Agricultural (STA) zone establishes small tract agricultural areas devoted primarily to berry, dairy, fruit, grain, vegetable, Christmas trees, and forage crop production. Direct marketing of agricultural products to the public and associated seasonal festivities are permitted. Residential density is 1 unit per 10 acres and residential uses should normally be associated with farming operations.

Forest Lands (F) zone consists of higher elevation forests devoted to commercial wood production. Non-resource-related uses are discouraged. Residential density is 1 unit per 20 acres in order to minimize conflicts with forestry operations. Activities generally include the growing and harvesting of timber, forest products and associated management activities, such as road and trail construction, slash burning and thinning in accordance with the Washington State Forest Practices.

For your further convenience I am quoting the requirements for and limits associated with animal raising and keeping for each zone designation:

Animal raising and keeping (LDR-P)

Animal raising and keeping (RT, R-5, RCV, UR zones)

Animal raising and/or keeping (LTA, STA, F zones)