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Proposed chicken barn ruffles feathers in Dunbarton

Union Leader Correspondent

June 25. 2013 8:24PM

DUNBARTON — Tom Giovagnoli and his neighbors are at odds over his plan to build a 27,000-square-foot barn for 20,000 egg-laying chickens on his Twist Hill Road property.

Giovagnoli’s property is zoned low-density residential, which under town ordinance permits agricultural use if his barn is built at least 100 feet from the property line. Giovagnoli said the nearest house is about one-quarter mile away, nearly 1,300 feet, from the proposed barn. Though Giovagnoli understands his neighbors’ concerns, he said there are misconceptions about the plan and invites them to meet with him and see the plan and conservation reports for themselves.

“It’s permitted by the town. There’s no differentiation from commercial or agricultural,” he said.

Giovagnoli said he bought the property from the Godbout family, who ran a free-range turkey farm there for about 50 years.

But abutter Jaye Rancourt said Giovagnoli’s property is now surrounded by residential homes.

“His farm was once surrounded by vacant land, woods and an apple orchard. When the farm was operated as a turkey farm, the Giovagnoli land was not surrounded by single-family residences as it is today,” Rancourt said. “The proposed site will only be approximately 1,000 feet from his neighbor’s homes. One-thousand feet is a not a large distance when we are talking about an industrial-size building housing 20,000 chickens. It is our hope that the town of Dunbarton will take appropriate steps to protect the home values of Mr. Giovagnoli’s neighbors.”

A June 10 Zoning Board meeting on the proposal was cancelled because of an appeal filed by residents Merlin and Kimberly Chapman, who want the Planning Board’s decision to accept a site plan review application reversed.

The plan is on hold but Planning Board Co-Chairman Ken Swayze said it is still technically under Planning Board review. The next Planning Board meeting is July 17, and applicants can request a hearing seven to 10 days before the meeting if they want to appear on the agenda, said Swayze.

Giovagnoli said the large barn is required because he wants to raise organic-certified hens. The property has also been inspected by University of New Hampshire professor and agricultural specialist John Porter, and has received a conservation plan from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Concord to safeguard air quality, soil and water, he said.

Giovagnoli said his neighbors will “not see the barn from the road, you won’t see it or smell it. I just wish they’d listen and try to understand. At the end of the day, they won’t know it’s there.”

But Rancourt disagrees.

“When the leaves are off the trees half the year, we will see the huge structure from our home. If we can see it, we will be able to smell it and hear it,” said Rancourt.

Giovagnoli said his neighbors are also concerned about their wells, but added there is no need for alarm.

“We’re all on artesian wells. The chickens will use about 1,000-1,200 gallons a day. A typical family uses about 350 gallons a day. It’s like having three houses on an 85-acre property.”

He said his well went dry last year and a company told him if there is a 75-foot distance from another well, it’s on a different vein.

Rancourt said neighbors’ wells will be impacted and could cause a financial burden to abutters.

“To the extent our wells go dry and we need to dig new wells and take other remedial actions to get water to our homes we will be financially harmed. Our home values will be further negatively impacted by the lack of ground water and the inability to draw sufficient water from our wells,” she said.

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