ZBA approves Stone Barn condos

Last modified: 3/3/2015 9:17:06 AM
PETERBOROUGH — The iconic yet dilapidated Stone Barn may have collapsed this winter if its new owners — Stan Fry of Peterborough and Bradford Malt of Boston, Massachusetts — hadn’t pour hundreds of thousands of dollars in to saving it.

Now, Fry, Malt, and Cy Gregg, who has now joined the partnership, plan to build 10 condos in the barn and 12 behind it. They say the money they earn from the condos will lighten the cost of saving the barn.

“Let’s make clear what we’re talking about with real estate. Certainly, the primary goal is to enable the Stone Barn to be saved,” attorney Phil Runyon said to the Zoning Board of Adjustment at a hearing at the Town House Monday. Runyon spoke on behalf of Fry, Malt, and Gregg. “Without a development like this, the other units there, and the units in the barn itself, it really isn’t financially feasible to save the barn alone. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish with this project.”

The board approved Fry, Malt, and Gregg’s request to build the 22 condos on the about 32-acre property on Old Street Road off Route 101.

The board voted unanimously for the 10 condos to be built in the barn. They voted 4-1 for the 12 condos to be built in the back quarter of the property.

Fry, Malt, and Gregg’s plan is nearly identical to a plan the board approved in 2006 for Joel Weiner of Peterborough, who then owned the barn. Weiner later abandoned the building project because it proved too expensive, according to Runyon.

The current owners intend to preserve the outside appearance of the barn, even though they plan to build 10 condos inside. Their plan calls for building a private road running along the north side of the property, which leads to 12 condos clustered on the southeast quarter of the property. This 12-condo development would abut Gregg’s home.

The Stone Barn was built by the Cheney family in 1910, and was a functioning farm until the 1940s. The family’s patriarch, Benjamin Cheney, was a founder of the firm that turned into American Express.

The barn is one of two stone barns still in existence in New Hampshire, according to Runyon.

Since the Cheneys sold the barn, the building fell further and further into disrepair, and lacked any significant use, Runyon said.

Other owners over the years also tried to turn the plot into a condominium development. One owner even marketed and commercially sold the water from springs behind the barn, which sparked a legal fight with neighbors. Runyon refers to this period as the “water wars.”

This summer, Fry, Malt, and later Gregg stepped in. They paid for the barn’s roof and structure to be strengthened so it wouldn’t collapse this winter.

“I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that with all the snow we’ve had this winter, if they haven’t done what they did last fall, there wouldn’t be much left to talk about at this point,” Runyon said by phone Wednesday.

Neighbors in the crowd at the hearing voiced their support for the development.

“I would rather see housing than other uses, like a restaurant, a hotel, or a brewery,” Janet Shea, who lives next door to the barn, said. Shea supported Weiner’s 2006 proposal too, and said the neighbors all agreed at the time condos would be a good use of the barn.

Nicole MacStay, Peterborough’s assistant town administrator, was in the crowd at the hearing. MacStay declared her support, and said it is an “excellent proposal.”

Although the board was largely in favor of the whole plan, Chair Jim Stewart questioned if the board should grant the owners a variance to allow the cluster of 12 condos to be built behind the barn. Peterborough’s zoning ordinance allows only seven of these condos, because of restrictions to open space residential developments. The ordinance in 2006 allowed 12 of these condos to be built.

Stewart told Runyon and Jeff Kevan, a TF Moran project manager who is designing the development, that Runyon and Kevan had to explain the “hardship” the board denying this variance would cause the owners.

Runyon said that if the variance is not approved, and they can’t build 12 condos, “it’s not economically feasible for the rest of the project.”

Kevan added that constructing a 900-foot road leading to the 12 condos will cost about $40,000.

When Stewart pressed Runyon and Kevan more, Kevan responded, “it’s a very unique piece of property.” He said the property can support 12 units.

Ultimately, Stewart agreed with Kevan. “What does matter to me about the property is how unique it is, the terrain, the location, the wetlands, even the fact [the variance] was previously granted,” Stewart said.

The board also approved a variance for the 12 condos to be fewer than 75 feet, but no more than 58 feet from Gregg’s property; and a special exception for the road to cross a shoreland conservation zone.

Fry said Wednesday that he, Gregg, and Malt, who is a Carley Road homeowner and played a part in preserving Cranberry Meadow Pond and its trail, will likely hire a contractor soon.

Once a contractor creates more of a plan for the development, Fry, Gregg, and Malt will propose the plan to the Planning Board, Runyon said Wednesday. The Planning Board would conduct a site plan review to look at the impact of the development on the property and its neighbors.

Benji Rosen can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228, or brosen@ledgertranscript.com. Follow him on Twitter @Benji_Rosen.


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