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Hen house appeal on hold

DUNBARTON – An appeal of the Planning Board’s approval of a site plan review for a controversial hen house has been placed on hold.

Merlin and Kimberly Chapman of Jay Drive applied to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for an appeal of a proposed 46-by-588-foot barn to house 20,000 hens on the Twist Hill Road farm owned by Tom Giovagnoli.

Giovagnoli and his attorney, however, object to delaying the hearing, saying they want it sooner rather than later.

The Chapmans argue that an earlier Planning Board meeting improperly determined that Giovagnoli’s proposed use of his property was a permitted one under the zoning ordinance.

In a prior letter that accompanied the Chapmans’ application for appeal, their attorney, John Sokul, wrote “To the extent that the action included a decision by the Planning Board that the proposed use is agricultural rather than commercial, it is inconsistent with a prior determination made by the Dunbarton building inspector.”

The ZBA hearing was scheduled for June 10. The meeting was moved from the town offices to Dunbarton Elementary School in anticipation of a large crowd.

In a June 5 letter to the ZBA Sokul, attorney for the Chapmans, asked that the hearing be deferred or continued. The appeal was filed to preserve the Chapman’s right to raise certain issues regarding Planning Board action taken at the initial site plan review hearing and his appeal was based primarily on his review of the meeting minutes, Sokul wrote. He requested the postponement after speaking with the building inspector and reviewing a May 31 letter from the Planning Board’s attorney.

“Based on that discussion and my review of Attorney Spector-Morgan’s letter, my understanding of the factual background is slightly different than when I filed the appeal and it appears that my issues should be able to be resolved with the Planning Board, in which case I will withdraw my appeal,” Sokul wrote.

He requested that the hearing be postponed until August or September to allow time to meet with the Planning Board.

Attorney John Cronin, representing Giovagnoli, said three months is too long to wait and has asked to be scheduled at the earliest possible date.

It’s also unusual for someone to ask for time to confer with the board whose decision they’re appealing, Cronin said.

“That’s generally not how it works,” Cronin said.

The proposed usage falls within the “livestock, poultry and swine” use classification, Cronin said, and is permitted under the zoning ordinance, subject only to certain setback requirements.

The project itself is exactly what the Dunbarton Master Plan calls for and meets state standards for good agriculture, Cronin said.

The enclosure allows hens to be cage-free and is designed to contain manure.

“It’s very modern,” Cronin said. “It’s not your old poultry barns of yesteryear.”

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