The Farm at Wolf Pine Hollow owners lose appeal to ZBA

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/11/2022 2:49:18 PM

The Hancock ZBA denied an appeal request Nov. 9 by the owners of The Farm at Wolf Pine Hollow at 53 Middle Road for relief from an administrative decision.

The administrative decision from the Select Board, according to farm owners Ariane and Tom Ice, included the requirement of a site plan review and approval by the Planning Board for an agribusiness “tasting house” which would serve food and wine to a maximum of 20 people.

Ariane Ice said they were informed in a letter from the Select Board that if they disagreed with the site plan requirement and approval by the Planning Board, they could appeal to the ZBA.  

In their appeal, dated Oct. 27, the Ices, who bought the property and moved to Hancock from the Seacoast, contend that their business has met all applicable food safety requirements and that state officials have licensed them to serve food and wine to a maximum of 20 people in a portion of the farmhouse structure.

“We want to serve beer and wine to 20 people,” Ariane Ice said. “The town has not been welcoming to us and we feel we’re receiving disparate treatment from how others are treated.”

After purchasing the property on Middle Road in 202o, the Ices turned it into a working farm with goats, sheep and chickens that sells a variety of produce, flowers and culinary specialties, according to their website, which also states the farm has a kitchen “designed to provide a taste of farm life through culinary agritourism.” 

“We feel that it’s a matter of right for us to be able to include the tasting room,” Ariane Ice said. “We haven’t triggered any ordinances.”

In their appeal, the Ices state there is no administrative decision to appeal and that the proposed tasting room is not a “significant expansion” of a farming activity, as claimed by the town. The Ices also contend that New Hampshire statutes do not permit the town to exercise site plan review and Hancock’s site plan review regulations do not apply to the mere change of use of existing buildings, particularly in an agricultural context.

The appeal states: “There has been no change in use, much less, a ‘substantial’ one that would trigger site plan review or public safety concerns generally.”

ZBA Chair Leonard “Hunt” Dowse began the meeting by reminding those in attendance of the four responsibilities of the ZBA: special exceptions, variances, relief from administrative decisions and equitable waivers of dimensional requirements.

“There are a number of RSAs relating to this subject,” Dowse said. “We had discussion between [the ZBA board] and the Ices’ attorney about the appeal for relief from the administrative decision and we agreed this is needed.”

Ice said she and her husband received their first letter from the Select Board last May informing them the board did not believe the business was a farm.

“It’s disappointing. We live here, this is our land and we have employees who work here that live in Hancock and  throughout the region,” Ice said. 

Dowse said the next steps will depend on how the Ices  wish to proceed. 

Ice said she and her husband have invested $3 million in their farm and that the next step will likely be an appeal to court. 

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