Francestown subdivision hearing continued, riding arena business detailed

  • Screenshot of the proposed subdivision on Stevens Road, on land owned by Ron and Melissa Shattuck, presented at the Francestown Planning Board meeting on Oct. 20, 2020. Courtesy image

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/2/2020 4:37:26 PM

The Francestown Planning Board ultimately continued hearings on a subdivision and a site use plan proposed by Ron and Melissa Shattuck after their meeting Tuesday night.

The two proposals, one to create five three-acre housing lots on a parcel framed by Stevens Road and 2nd NH Turnpike South, the other to commercially use an already-constructed riding arena in the same area, attracted significant public comment and prompted tense back and forth between Board members and project representatives as both hearings have dragged on across multiple meetings.

Although the proposed subdivided lot sizes meet regulation, the proposal has potential problems for other reasons, Board member Gerri Bernstein said. “I can’t only consider the math because it works. I have to consider sentiment of the town, its character, its historic resources, the water, the erosion, the vegetation, all those things matter,” she said, and given that, she had a hard time supporting all four proposed lots along Stevens Road.

Bernstein wasn’t the only Board member to suggest a dilution of the conventional subdivision concept, rather than an Open Space Design concept, which the Board had previously requested for consideration. Several members walked back their interest in pursuing such a layout, in part because they said the concept Meridian Land Services presented at their last meeting didn’t indicate they’d considered the concept seriously. It seemed unlikely that a design would meet the ordinance’s intention, which is to preserve open space and minimize the impact of the housing development, Chair Karen Fitzgerald said.

The hearing was characterized by an occasionally combative back-and-forth between the Board and the applicant’s lawyer, Jason Bielagus, who repeatedly asked the Board whether their suggestions were requirements or not, while Board members were skeptical of certain technicalities that justified parts of the project, such as the substantial land clearing that has already been done on the site. 

Ultimately, the Board asked the applicants for an updated map of the site that incorporated missing features identified by the Conservation Commission, and expected to question lawyer Amy Manzelli, who represents community members opposed to the project, at their next meeting on Dec. 15 as the hearing continues.

The riding arena

The Planning Board also opened discussion of the site plan review application that seeks to allow commercial activity at the Shattuck’s indoor horse riding arena, which was constructed last year. They ultimately requested a revised plan and continued the hearing to the next meeting, at which point they’ll hear more public comment. This summer, the Board told Melissa Shattuck that they either needed a site plan review application for the site, or a written statement that the arena would only be for personal use.

The riding arena operation includes the indoor riding arena as well as a number of outdoor paddocks and small buildings. It already spans two lots, Pyle said, whereas the Board can only grant site plan approval on activities happening on a single lot. The proposed subdivision would complicate the number of lots further, she said, and that the Board would seek legal counsel on how to handle that. It could mean that the Board either waives that single-lot requirement, or rejects one of the Shattuck’s two applications, she said. 

The proposed business at the riding arena would accommodate personal use, daily private lessons, birthday parties, summer camps, and expert clinics, Melissa Shattuck told the Board. Lawyer Jason Reimers, standing in for Amy Manzelli and representing residents opposed to the plan, pointed out that some of the requested uses would require a special exception from the Zoning Board, and said that the business would interfere with adjacent properties in the historic district along Stevens Road.

The Board requested a revised site plan that includes an erosion control plan, a manure management plan, a statement that a portable toilet and hand washing station will be provided, a landscape plan showing a theoretical septic site although none is currently proposed, a drainage maintenance plan, as well as a schematic showing the whole site, not just the arena building. They also encouraged the applicants to make sure the outdoor flood lights they’re proposing fully comply with the town’s lighting ordinance, which has a lumen limit and requires light to be downcast and directed off roads and adjacent properties. Board members also expressed concern over evidence of erosion already occurring on site, and wanted more detail on the species of plants used to construct a visual buffer to obscure the property from the road, and asked whether there was a plan for obscuring the tractor trailers currently on site.

There would be a portable toilet on site to meet commercial requirements, although attendees could also use the facilities across the street at their house, Shattuck said, and clients would ride the horses on site rather than bringing their own. Horse manure would be piled on site and periodically scraped and driven off site to mix with loam and sand, she said.


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