Sugar Shack expansion project moves ahead

  • The Select Board discusses a request to expand the building of Ben's Sugar Shack during its meeting on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/27/2016 6:19:01 PM

After initially balking at signing a building permit to allow Ben’s Sugar Shack owner Ben Fisk to expand his maple syrup bottling and shipping building, the Select Board approved it – but not without some controversy.

Fisk submitted two building permit requests to the board during its Tuesday meeting – one for a garage and one for a 2,100-square-foot expansion to the 1,400-square-foot building where he currently bottles and labels his maple syrup.

While the board said they did not have an issue with the garage permit, Selectwoman Gail Cromwell had several points she wanted to address on the building expansion – including the fact that Fisk had already started to work on the expansion prior to obtaining a building permit.

Fisk said he was not willing to wait to continue work on the expansion and the concrete foundation would be poured on schedule, whether he had a building permit or not.

“We’re moving forward with this project whether or not you decide to hold us up,” said Fisk.

Select Board Chair George Willard acknowledged that a building permit is not required to pour concrete on private property.

There was also some controversy over whether Select Board member Ken Caisse should recuse himself in the deliberation of the building permits.

Caisse is an employee of Fisk’s, but said he felt that he did not have a conflict of interest in the case as the permits were submitted by Fisk’s father, who owns the land and the building.

Cromwell strongly disagreed, saying she believed Caisse had a pecuniary interest in the matter due to his employment and should recuse himself. Some members of the audience voiced their agreement with that, but Caisse did not announce his recusal and signed the permit on Tuesday.

Cromwell and Willard also expressed concern regarding a complaint from a neighbor, Marty Connolly, that Fisk’s current facility was releasing graywater into the pond on the property. 

Fisk denied that there was any effluent coming from his building. On Wednesday, Building Inspector Peter Caswell confirmed with Willard that the business had a Department of Environmental Services approved graywater station.

After talking to Caswell, Willard signed the building permit, which he had said the previous night he was not prepared to do until receiving assurances from Caswell. 

As of mid-afternoon Wednesday, Cromwell had yet to sign the building permit, but a building permit only needs a majority of the board to be approved, meaning that Willard and Caisse’s signatures suffice.

Cromwell also said she was concerned that about the size of the operation at the site. She said that upon consulting with the Municipal Association, she had been advised that even agricultural uses, which are exempt from certain zoning standards, may be subject to local land use board regulations upon significant expansion.

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