New Ipswich Planning Board gets extra time to review Silver Scone Teas

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 05-01-2023 2:01 PM

Jane Elwell, owner of the proposed Silver Scone Teas tea party event business on River Road, agreed to extend the deadline for the Planning Board to render a decision on a review of the site plans, in order to submit more-detailed plans.

Once the Planning Board accepts the plans as complete, it has 65 days to render a decision by state law unless an extension is granted by the applicant.

Planning Board Chair Deirdre Daley informed Elwell Wednesday that the board was not prepared to make an informed decision without more-detailed engineered plans. While a consensus of the board was not taken, Daley brought up the possibility of denying the application without prejudice – meaning Elwell could reapply at a later date – if the board did not have all information needed to make a decision.

Board members requested plans with more-specific information on the parking lot, including pre- and post-construction elevations, grades, slopes, more information on the drainage, erosion plan, turning radius and the surface or materials that are to be used.

With the possibility of the proposal being rejected, Elwell agreed to extend the hearing past the early May deadline.

A proposal to use a cleared area off of Currier Road, which is part of Elwell’s property, as a 18-space parking lot continued to be a main source of contention with neighbors to the property, who have protested the business’s approvals through other boards. In particular, the possibility of overflow parking remained a major concern. When approving the variance for the business, the Zoning Board allowed events up to four times a month, with no more than 50 guests at a time. The parking lot accommodates up to 18 cars, with an additional five additional spots in Elwell’s driveway or garage, as detailed in plans submitted to the Planning Board.

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Attorney Nancy Clark, who represents a group of abutters and neighborhood residents around Elwell’s home, has challenged the validity of the gravel parking lot, as well as the driveway spots. Issues include the parking lot and the spots located behind Elwell’s mailbox not being paved, and the driveway spots stacked and blocking the garage in defiance of the town’s ordinances.

Neighbors questioned where any overflow parking might go. Daley said she had consulted with the Zoning Board on its decisions related to parking, which were to limit the business parking to off-street. Daley said that is the intent, although there is no ordinance prohibiting street parking on the road.

Clark challenged that assertion, noting that the Zoning Board’s intent mattered less than what was actually put to paper – which she said included all business-related parking, not specifically customers, and should include any employees or people who assist during Elwell’s events.

Elwell said all her events are by reservation, and she can easily direct people where to park during those reservations, as well as put up and take down signs directing people to parking during events to prevent overflow onto the road.

The Planning Board continued the hearing until May 17.

With the decision from the Planning Board still pending, Elwell and the neighbors, represented by Clark, will be before the New Hampshire Housing Appeals Board, to debate appeals of two previous town decisions related to the business – the Zoning Board’s approval of a variance to allow the business in a village zone, and an approval of a driveway permit for the parking area.

The Housing Appeals Board has scheduled a prehearing conference for the two appeals on May 2 in Concord, with the hearing itself scheduled for May 16.

Ashley Saari can be  reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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