Zoning is a way to organize all human activities into small boxes. Jordan Stevens discovered this when she received a warning from planning officials that she could not host goat yoga classes at her Hamilton County farm.
Since 2018, Stevens and her partner had been running goat yoga classes—where people strike traditional yoga poses while goats clamber on and around them—out of a local counseling center. Stevens moved the operations to Happy Goat Lucky Acres after the pandemic. She was able to conduct classes outside and no longer have to transport her Nigerian dwarf goats.
Stevens was the sole goat yoga instructor in the state. It proved to be a great deal for her goats and customers. She says that the goats thrive when they are able to interact with humans. We have separate pen on the farm where we teach classes, which they can access directly.
Hamilton County officials weren’t happy with this win-win scenario for goats as well as humans. Stevens received an email from the Hamilton County planning department in July 2021 informing her that goat-yoga was prohibited on her land. Her property was zoned to allow her goat farming and goat product sales. But goat yoga was not allowed. Stevens would need a variance to her zoning to legally operate her business.
Stevens received the bad news. Her farm allowed her to be more efficient and was convenient. This is especially true for Stevens, who has multiple sclerosis that makes it very difficult to work from home.
Stevens had no choice but to go through the county’s maze. The fees were about $1,000, and she lost $4,000 of revenue because her business was stopped for two months.
All was lost. Stevens applied for a variance from the County Board of Zoning Appeals in September.
Stevens managed to complete the remainder of her season which ran from May through October at the Tipton County fairgrounds. Stevens was not able to finish her season due to the extra expense and difficulty of moving classes from the farm. She wondered if she would be able continue teaching goat yoga.
“It sucks,” Stevens says. They take money from taxpayers that they already have, then they can’t do things on their own properties that don’t harm anyone.