Commercial status of Francestown riding arena at crux of Planning Board discussion

  • The Shattuck's horse riding arena along the 2nd NH Turnpike in Francestown. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/13/2020 4:23:27 PM

The Francestown Planning Board asked a resident to determine whether a horse farm was for personal or commercial use at their meeting two weeks ago. The discussion came months after the resident constructed an indoor riding arena before town officials rescinded their initial determination that it would not require a building inspection or special exception. Owner Melissa Shattuck answered questions about her agricultural operation, Saving Grace Farm, and told the board she felt as though the project had been treated with bias since she and her husband Ron first submitted a permit application last fall.

This fall, the Shattucks constructed the riding arena and installed fencing across the 2nd NH Turnpike from their house on Cross Road. At a Select Board meeting on June 1, Ron Shattuck told Select Board members that, although town officials initially told them the arena wouldn’t need a site plan inspection, they received a second letter telling them they would likely need one, as well as a special exception, when the building was 90 percent complete. Melissa Shattuck told the Planning Board it seemed like town boards and officials were making unfounded assumptions about their project. “We never saw them, they never spoke with us,” she said.

Several Board members asked Shattuck about the website for Saving Grace Farm, which lists pony riding lessons, summer camp programs, and birthday party events, with prices listed. “If the purpose is a commercial use, it’s not that we’re not going to allow you to do it,” Board Chair Karen Fitzgerald said, but that commercial activity on the farm would require them to get a special exception and building inspection.

The Shattucks are planning to sell their home and create a subdivision to construct a new one across the road, and built the arena and paddocks first so their 11 horses and ponies would have a place to stay if their house sold in the meantime, Shattuck said. “The number one and primary use is personal,” she said, as five family members ride. She said she didn’t want to go through with the special exception and building inspection because she didn’t believe her operation met the town’s criteria, and that she didn’t want to incur additional expenses through a site plan review. “There’s a lot of expense in it potentially for us… I’ve got the packet, there’s fee after fee after fee,” she said. Ultimately, she said she’d stop using the horses for any commercial purposes if the inspection fees were too burdensome.

Board members said the Shattucks would either need to complete the building inspection or submit a written statement that the farm would only be for personal use. Fitzgerald offered to consult with the Shattucks to determine the potential cost of an inspection.

In an interview on June 24, Shattuck had not yet decided what route to take. “I’m still waiting for an answer to my questions before I make that kind of decision. Mostly just what kind of fees are we talking about,” she said. “We just want a fair shot to do the right thing. We’re not looking to pull any fast ones,” she said.


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