The informal review for Wellspring Farm by the Rochester Planning Board on February 14 was unusually quiet sans any abutters presenting their most recent complaints.
James and Holly Vogel, owners of the 42 Hiller Road therapeutic horseback riding facility and farm, sat ready to answer any questions as attorney George Boerger and engineer Joe Webby gave the informal presentation of the proposed site plan for the commercial business.
Planning Board Chairman Arnold Johnson outlined the scope of the board’s review as mostly traffic, parking, drainage, and screening.
“But we reserve the right to add anything in there that may come up over the course of the hearing,” said Johnson.
One concern was a gravel road – one which engineer Rich Charon explained in a letter on behalf of the Vogels should be sufficient enough for the proposed operations at the site – that would be limited to exiting traffic.
Boerger said the Vogels propose grading and resurfacing the gravel, also a concern from the Zoning Board of Appeals who have already granted their permit for the project.
A designated entrance and exit is proposed so that vans and buses can pull in and drive right through. Neighbors have expressed concerns about the noise of alarms sounding from vans and buses in reverse.
Also, parking on Hiller Road has been curbed with the placement of ‘No Parking’ signs, with parking redirected into the property.
“We’re going to be asking you to provide parking counts and we’re going to need to verify those as well,” said Johnson. How many cars come in there on a daily basis, at what times, and other relevant information, added Johnson.
Planning Board member Gary Florindo brought up the idling of diesel engines, which has been a complaint of abutters in the past.
“Idle time should be at a minimum,” said Florindo. “That annoys the neighbors…. Sound does travel.”
Vogel said he had already posted ‘No Idling’ signs at the site in order to comply with the ZBA conditions of the permit. Some vehicles may start up a bit early to warm up the interior before the children board, but other than that, said Vogel, “We don’t idle.”
“We’re interested in vehicle trip [number counts],” said Johnson. “That’s how we’re going to determine everything.”
Locations for drop off and pick up will have to be clearly marked on the site plan.
Webby, during his presentation, said one reason why the design stage has been slow is due to the above-mentioned gravel road within the 25-foot no-touch wetlands zone. Until they were able to assess when it was created and whether it was properly permitted, no one was certain on which way the design would go.
“Now that we have a report confirming that the base of the road is good and properly permitted through conservation,” said Webby, “We can now enter the design mentality…”
Screening could be added in addition to the ZBA’s conditions, said Johnson, but at the very least, the Planning Board would have to honor the ZBA requirements.
“All the screening is consistent with what the ZBA required,” said Boerger.
Boerger said one neighbor specifically requested to not install a fence that would block a view of the tree canopy from their property. The Vogels said they wish to accommodate the neighbor, but the request must be approved by the ZBA first.
As the presentation wrapped up, Johnson said, “The reason for this meeting is to try and get most of this out there before you get too far along in the development of the project.”
Johnson said this site plan review was an “extensive application” that covers some “big stuff and small stuff,” specifying a need to make clear bullet point remarks in the narratives.
Another non-contiguous parcel was discussed, for which the Vogels currently have no plan to expand or change. The parcel, located further down Walnut Plain Road, is used on occasion for experiential therapy for children who have little experience in a woodland setting.
The Planning Board stated that it would continue to require the mandatory 40-foot apron along the road, despite a proposal to limit it to 20 feet.
“I don’t think we’ve ever waived the forty-foot,” said Johnson. The board concurred.
With no further questions, and without a peep from the audience, Johnson reminded Boerger that the board requires a two-week public notification before a public hearing, so a formal site plan review filing should be done sooner rather than later.
The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for February 28 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
By Jean Perry