Jaffrey man seeks variance for native plant nursery

  • Doug Clayton is seeking two variances to use his historic property for a native plant nursery in Jaffrey. Photo by Ashley Saari

  • Photo by Ashley SaariDoug Clayton is seeking two variances to use his historic property for a native plant nursery in Jaffrey.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/16/2021 5:18:01 PM

The owner of a historic home in the Mountain Zone wants to use the property to grow native plants and sell them from the property.

Douglas Clayton was the long-time caretaker of the property at 822 Mountain Road, which includes a historic farmhouse built in the 1800s. Its previous owners, Dr. Graham Jeffries and his wife Elizabeth Jeffries, who used the house as a summer property, gifted it to Clayton, and he began to look for potential uses for the property that would help preserve it.

Last year, Clayton received a grant to remove some of the trees and invasive plants on the back of the property to restore the view of Mount Monadnock, and replace the plantings with native plants that provide pollen and food sources for local wildlife.

His next proposal is to build a greenhouse and start a nursery, including native plantings on the property which people could purchase straight from the ground.

On Thursday, Clayton appeared before the Jaffrey Zoning Board to present his plan, which requires two variances – one to build a greenhouse about twice the size of what is allowed, and the second to allow commercial purchases from the property, which is prohibited in the Mountain Zone.

“It’s an agricultural use much within the character of the district,” Clayton told the board.

Clayton said the majority of the plants grown on the property would be sold wholesale by a partnered landscape business, but he also wished to make some sales from the property to the general public.

The Mountain Zone, according to Jaffrey’s Land Use Code, is limited to rural residential and agricultural uses, in order to protect the area against commercialization and preserve the natural beauty of the area at the base of Mount Monadnock.

The code allows the operation of “farms, nurseries [and] greenhouses” though greenhouses are limited to 600 square feet. However, while the zone allows nurseries, it explicitly does not permit retail stores, services or sales rooms.

Clayton said it should be “eminently reasonable” to allow sales from the property related to an allowed use.

His intent, he said, was not to have a nursery in the vein of other local sellers where customers choose from plants in trays on tables. He said the plants would remain planted on the property, and people could choose from the options after walking through the plantings. He said it wasn’t his intent to build or turn the farmhouse into a retail space; rather, he said his goal for the business is to promote and educate people on the importance of using native New Hampshire plantings, rather than foreign, and sometimes invasive species.

The majority of feedback received by the board during its Thursday meeting viewed the proposal favorably, though some feared that allowing any kind of retail sales in the Mountain Zone was akin to opening a Pandora’s box, some proposing the board leverage restrictions to ensure the venture couldn’t grow past Clayton’s intentions in the future.

Carolyn Garretson, chair of the Jaffrey Conservation Commission, said the majority of the board was in favor of the proposal, and Clayton’s educational goals.

“This would be such a resource for us,” she said.

Janet Grant of Jaffrey said she was “totally in support,” but urged the board to “think and protect the future” of the Mountain Zone.

Pam Royce of Jaffrey said while Clayton’s proposal itself might be inoffensive, it might lead to other, more undesirable uses in the future, and approving the variance would be “sending a signal” to the Mountain Zone about allowing retail.

“I know Doug’s intent is good,” Royce said. “But retail is retail and someone else’s version of retail may be different.”

The board did not deliberate on Thursday, and has scheduled a site walk of the property on Feb. 17 at approximately 3:30 p.m. at 822 Mountain Road. Deliberations are scheduled to continue at the Jaffrey Fire Station following the site walk, at approximately 4:30 p.m. Deliberations are also accessible via Zoom. Sign in information for the Zoom meeting is available on the town website at townofjaffrey.com.

 

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




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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