Horse Farm Awarded Special Permit with Stipulations

            Five O’Clock Farm might wish to consider a new name after 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 o’clock were discussed by applicants Ross, Carol and Katie Speers with the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals during their October 15 public hearing that awarded the Speers the Special Permit to operate a new horse farm on 6 acres of land at 66 Burgess Avenue.

            The plan as originally presented would feature a large outdoor ring, a new 140-by-70 foot indoor arena, a 80-by-36, 23-foot high, 10-stall barn, and a new septic system. There is fencing planned and many trees.

            The case was continued from September 24 in order to allow the Speers to meet with multiple abutters to their property so they could communicate their plans in greater detail. Ross Spears reported to the ZBA that meetings transpired during a two-week interim that became three weeks when an October 8 continuance was sent off the rails by technical difficulties.

            The Special Permit, needed in order to use the facility to give riding lessons – the Speers are allowed “by right” to board horses because the property is zoned for residential and agricultural uses – came with 13 stipulations, some of which were negotiated by the Speers and their abutters and some written into the decision by the ZBA with extensive guidance from Town Counsel Blair Bailey.

            After a motion and a second to close the public hearing, applicant Carol Speers was still trying to engage the board in discussion in hopes of expanding Sunday business hours prior to the noontime stipulation included in the decision. ZBA member Thomas Flynn interrupted her effort to point out that a motion was in fact on the floor and had been seconded.

            That motion to close the public hearing was then approved by a 5-0 vote, and a unanimous vote to approve the Special Permit with the stipulations as read by ZBA member Richard Cutler immediately followed and then a motion to adjourn. It was obvious that the applicants were dissatisfied with the abrupt conclusion, but due process was apparently followed. The Speers have 20 days from the hearing date to appeal the decision with the registrar of deeds.

            A summary of the stipulations: the dwelling on the property must be owner occupied (Katie Speers, who operates with a business partner, lives on the premises); the permit is non-transferrable to any unrelated person or entity; no more than one residence on the property; no more than 20 horses on the property at any time for any use; business hours from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm Monday-Saturday and from noon to 9:00 pm Sunday (Sunday closing time changes to 8:00 pm from Labor Day to Memorial Day; manure be stored in covered container and removed weekly April-October and twice monthly the rest of the year (daytime only removal, small areas for composting allowed but not close to property lines); deliveries allowed from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday-Saturday; no on-site public-address system but a hand-held PA is okay; the sign shall not be lit internally or externally; primary parking in accordance with the revised site plan; no on-street parking permitted; on-site staff limited to five at any one time; property must maintain 20 foot landscape buffer where buffer presently exists; and exterior lighting must be International Dark Sky Association approved or comply with the non-profit organization’s community-friendly outdoor-sports guidelines.

            During board discussion, Flynn noted that Rochester has many horses and not many lights. “I don’t want this to be the Sears Tower in Rochester,” he said. Bailey suggested that, while Dark Sky’s guidelines are customized according to shadows rather than concrete times on the clock, the board consider appending a maximum height: “In no event shall a light on any pole be taller than 30 feet.”

            ZBA Chairman David Arancio instructed board members that they need to sign the decision at the town’s Annex building no later than October 20. Arancio credited Cutler and the Speers’ abutters for working through the stated concerns and told the Speers, “We wish you nothing but success.”

            The next meeting of the Rochester ZBA was not yet set.

Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals

By Mick Colageo

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