Peterborough ZBA approves Old Stone Barn elderly housing

  • Architect Stephen Humphreys describes some of the proposals for the Old Stone Barn development during Monday evening’s Zoning Board meeting in Peterborough. STAFF PHOTO BY SCOTT MERRILL

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/4/2022 6:43:24 PM

Although the workforce housing portion of the plan is still pending, Peterborough Zoning Board members agreed to grant a special exception for elderly housing – age 55 and over -- to the developer of the Old Stone Barn property at 63 and 81 Old Street Road Monday evening.

The parcels are in the family and rural districts -- which allow one single family home or duplex per acre and one single-family home or duplex per three acres, respectively – and Peterborough’s zoning ordinance allows for special exceptions for elderly housing at a density level of not more than 10 units per acre. The proposed project calls for 67 age-restricted units on 33 acres, 11 of which include wetlands.  

Before the hearing, Zoning Board Chair Sharon Monahan reminded the full house that the workforce housing portion of the Old Stone Barn project would not be dealt with at the meeting. Twelve proposed units of workforce housing require a separate conditional use permit that needs to be taken up by the Planning Board.

“We are not dealing with any of the workforce housing aspects tonight but only with the special exception,” she said, explaining the special exception arose because the proposed project is within a family and rural district and . “This is a permitted-use case. Whether [the developer] meet[s] the special exception criteria is the focus. When this is approved, they have to go to the Planning Board for site plan review.”

Developer Eldon Munson of Francestown outlined two goals of the project.

“One is to create an active adult community serving residential population for independent folks who want to live in an independent environment,” he said. “Peterborough is an excellent place to live and we want to make this a part of the greater Peterborough scheme.”

The second goal, Munson said, is to preserve the Old Stone Barn by “finding the most positive and best uses for it.”

“We realize the value of the barn to the town and we want to preserve the look and the utility of the barn over time,” he said.

Zoning Board member Loretta Laurenitis asked Munson for a distinction between “active aging” and elderly housing regarding the request for a special exception.

“You’ve talked about this project being for ‘active aging,’ and yet you’re coming for an exception for elderly housing,” she said, explaining that her concern was whether the property would include wider entryways and wheelchair accessibility for residents. “I’m wondering if there is a distinction between elderly and ‘active aging.’”

Munson explained that independent senior living is “active living” and not assisted-care living.

“At least that’s the differentiation that I understand. This is senior living, but it’s independent senior living and they don’t need any type of assisted functions at these facilities,” he said. 

Munson’s attorney, Jason Reimers, addressed the zoning ordinance’s criteria for special exception, including proximity to services, density levels and on-site parking, saying the development plans meet all of these. He quoted from Section 245-43 of the town’s zoning ordinance section, which provides the criteria for the exception.

“The purpose as stated in that section says, ‘It is declared to be in the public interest and the general welfare of the Town of Peterborough to encourage the development of housing for the elderly/handicapped,’” he said, adding that elderly housing is allowed in all districts except the business-industrial and office districts. “We’re in a rural and family district so this is a permitted use in this location.”

Reimers continued, saying the proposed project meets all building dimensions and frontage zoning requirements. He said the development will also comply with site plan regulations that require waivers from the Planning Board for two condominium regulations, as well as conditional-use permits from the Planning Board for wetland and shore impacts.

Several abutters questioned the density of the project as well as traffic concerns. Bill Littles, whose property abuts the proposed development, raised concerns with a Department of Transportation study. 

“If you’re making space for 146 cars, I think it’s going to add more impact to Old Street Road and surrounding areas than what you’re talking about,” he said.

Peterborough Conservation Commission member Jo Anne Carr cited a letter from the commission to the board expressing the need for assurance that there would be no impact to wetlands due to “vagueness with the driveway behind the additions on the barn” and how that might impact protection areas.

Following the meeting, a group of abutters, some of whom wished to remain anonymous, expressed concerns about the project’s effects on wildlife and its overall density. 

Charles Hough and his wife live on the corner of Old Street Road and Route 101. He said they bought the property, which abuts the Old Stone Barn property along an entire section to the south, three years ago and turned it into a bed-and-breakfast inn, the Cranberry Meadow Farm Inn.

“We got every one of our neighbors’ support before converting it into an eight-guestroom inn. These guys haven’t done that,” he said. 

After another abutter said board members just considered the criteria in their purview, meaning they had not choice but to approved the exception, but didn’t consider the impact on the community, Hough said, “The previous developer was going to put 20 units of housing on that property. And a big chunk of that is underwater, so it’s really 22 acres. We just heard them say in a rural area it’s one unit per three acres. So theoretically [the property] should only support seven units.” 

Following the meeting, Reimer said there have been discussions between his client and the abutters and that they would like to work together. The next step, he said, will be to go before the Planning Board for a conditional permit relating to the workforce housing and wetlands issues. 


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