Woes continue to continue on Hiller Road next to Wellspring Farms, with another continuance continuing the continuation of continuing problems.
Cathy Mendoza, abutter to the therapeutic experiential farm mental health facility at 42 Hiller Road, returned to the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals on December 28, prompting the board to re-open the public comment portion of the public hearing in order for her to offer further information.
Mendoza said there must have been some confusion during the last meeting.
“I don’t think it’s as simple as just deciding on whether the Planning Board did their job,” said Mendoza. Mendoza has appealed the Planning Board’s Site Plan Review approval to the ZBA. “This permit is still under your jurisdiction. You awarded this commercial permit.” She added, after some research, that the ZBA does have the authority to revisit this issue and make any revisions to bring the Wellspring operation into compliance.
Into compliance with what, ZBA member Kirby Gilmore asked her.
With state noise regulations, Mendoza said, which Wellspring is currently violating on a daily basis, she alleged, “which my scientific study showed.”
Mendoza, during the meeting on December 21, said she had downloaded an app on her phone to measure the noise emitted from Wellspring Farm that is disruptive.
In some research on past Case Law, Mendoza said the Town could mandate that Wellspring owners James and Holly Vogel double the 20-foot buffer between the operation and the property line, and even triple it.
Mendoza recalled that the Planning Board found a 40-foot buffer excessive, especially since major shifts of buildings and driveways at Wellspring would be needed in order to widen a buffer.
“I think we’re going to have to continue this again,” said Cutler.
Neither Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson nor Town Counsel Blair Bailey were able to make the meeting that night.
Mendoza continued, “You do understand that you do have the right … to look at the Site Plan … and you do have the right to step back and impose further conditions.”
“Assuming that that is correct,” said Cutler, “we will take a look at that and discuss that with town counsel.”
Mendoza was not reassured.
“I’m just concerned because Blair [Bailey] and I have had a lot of conversations about a lot of things, and when it comes to certain points of law, I have actually proven him wrong maybe three times, so…”
Attorney for the Vogels, George Boerger, maintained that the Vogels were in fact operating under the state’s maximum noise level. He spoke with the noise experts, he said. “They couldn’t believe that somebody would allege that because a car’s idling or somebody’s talking to each other that that’s a violation of the noise regulations.”
Mendoza had a chance to appeal the ZBA’s prior decision within the 20-day appeal period, Boerger said, maintaining that Wellspring was in fact compliant and that Mendoza was trying to subvert the appeal process.
Planning Board member Gary Florindo said the Planning Board had never visited Wellspring or Mendoza’s property during business hours, so he was unsure whether noise was substantial coming from Wellspring.
Florindo suggested the ZBA meet again on January 4 and allow Johnson and Bailey the chance to attend, “So we can go over the whole thing again.”
“I would much rather see a larger amount of people from the Planning Board [present] … to give Cathy a fair shot at it.”
James Vogel later added that Mendoza’s account of what is happening at Wellspring is “not true.”
“I am telling you that what you hear is totally inaccurate,” he said, renewing his invitation to visit the site during business hours.
“And the noise, if there is any noise, that we make is much less than an air horn that gets used five days a week to scare kids with autism that we have to listen to,” said Vogel, turning the tables on Mendoza. “And there’s been other experiences there as well, so for a clear picture please come and see us.”
Mendoza wanted to rebut against the accusation that someone was sounding an air horn from her property, but Cutler would not allow it.
“No more rebuttals because it’s just going to go back and forth,” said Cutler.
The board again closed the hearing to public comment and continued the matter until January 4.
The next meeting of the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for January 4 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals
By Jean Perry