New Ipswich ZBA approves short-term rental cabins at Old Homestead Farm

ZBA Vice Chair Walker Farrey asks questions during a public hearing on Thursday about the use of short-term rental cabins proposed on Old Homestead Farm.

ZBA Vice Chair Walker Farrey asks questions during a public hearing on Thursday about the use of short-term rental cabins proposed on Old Homestead Farm. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Chelsea Hatcher of Old Homestead Farm presents a proposal for short-term rental cabins at the farm to the ZBA.

Chelsea Hatcher of Old Homestead Farm presents a proposal for short-term rental cabins at the farm to the ZBA. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 05-14-2024 12:01 PM

Old Homestead Farm has received a variance for owners Chelsea and Ben Hatcher to build five short-term rental cabins on their 160-acre farm, mainly to supplement their event venue.

On Thursday, the Hatchers appeared before the Zoning Board for a public hearing. The couple had previously been approved to host weddings, dances, parties and community events at the farm, but Chelsea Hatcher said after receiving that approval, and speaking with some brides interested in using the farm as a venue, realized they lacked a good facility for bridal parties to get ready.

In attempting to solve that issue, the couple came up with a proposal to build a bridal suite cabin, accompanied by four smaller cabins, and allow them to be rented out along with the venue for events. They would serve as short-term rentals for the rest of the year. The board unanimously approved the variance after hearing no objections from neighbors, and weighing the large and remote nature of the Hatcher’s property.

“This is a new business concept for the town,” said ZBA member David Lage, who agreed with Chelsea Hatcher that the short-term rentals were in line with other uses allowed in the district by special exception like inns and campgrounds, though it did not exactly fit either use.

Member Michelle Saari said that she didn’t see the cabins impacting the neighborhood, as it was contained on one area of the Hatchers’ large parcel.

“They’re very secluded,” she said.

That seclusion, and the working nature of the farm, was a deciding factor for the board. Lage said that it is in the town’s interest to preserve a large parcel for agricultural uses, and that supplemental businesses that can help keep the farm intact as open space is a benefit.

“I think it’s a pretty creative solution,” agreed board Vice Chair Walker Farrey, who was acting chair for the case due to the recusal of Chair Danielle Sikkila. He said the use was reasonable, given the size of the parcel and the distance from neighbors – with the nearest dwelling more than 600 feet from the cabins.

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The board set a list of conditions on the project, including that the large cabin host no more than nine guests and the smaller ones four, for a total of 25, that guests could stay no more than 30 days, either consecutively or cumulatively, in a 12-month period and that the use of the cabins as a business must remain ancillary to the larger working farm.

The board approved the application, with conditions, 4-0. The Hatchers must still go through a site plan approval with the Planning Board, a process they will combine with the site plan approval for their event venue, which they delayed while completing the variance process for the cabins.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscrip t.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.