A decision may be in sight for Wellspring Farm

Sep 27, 2017

After nearly a year of work to gain site plan review approval, the owners of Wellspring Farm on Hiller Road in Rochester might finally be seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

The last details of the site plan review were settled by the Planning Board and George Boerger, the representative of Wellspring owners Jim and Holly Vogel. Proposed locations of handicap-accessible toilets were marked on the plans, and Boerger noted that the materials for fence installation will be delivered on Friday, September 29.

The 8', solid-plank fence between the abutters' properties and Wellspring were a requirement placed on the Vogels in order to receive a Special Permit decision made by the Zoning Board of Appeals a year ago, which allowed the operation to continue as a commercial business.

Boerger expected that the fence would take about a week to install.

Wellspring, an equine therapy farm which offers treatment to children with special needs and mental and behavioral issues, has been subjected to severe criticism from abutters, who say that the traffic in and out of the business is loud and unmanageable, and that the property is often a "circus of noise." Abutter Cathy Mendoza filed a complaint in 2016 stating that Wellspring was operating as a commercial business, a finding that Rochester Building Inspector Jim Buckles upheld. The finding forced the Vogels to seek a Special Permit from Rochester's Zoning Board of Appeals, in order to operate as a commercial business.

Wellspring was awarded the permit under a number of requirements, including the building of a solid fence between their property and the abutters, and upon approval of a site plan review from the Planning Board.

Wellspring Farm's site plan review has been a more or less permanent agenda item on the Rochester Planning Board's agenda as the Vogels attempted to receive approval for Wellspring's site plan.

In April, members of the Planning Board criticized the Vogels for beginning construction of items on the site plan before they had been approved, and for beginning constructions in different sites than the plan had indicated. The Vogels argued that, due to the restrictions imposed upon them, some construction needed to be done as soon as possible.

Further complications ensued when the board was made aware that the fencing that the Vogels had installed did not meet the requirements imposed by the Zoning Board of Appeals. At the time, Planning Board Chair Arnie Johnson frankly told the Vogels to get their act together.

Now, the site plan review is up to date, and the final requirements have been met. The Planning Board closed the public hearing with no comments from abutters or the board members.

Planning Board members will discuss an order of decision before their October 12 meeting. At that meeting, the decision will either be announced, or moved to another date if the board needs to consider further. If approved, the site plan review will be subject to a 20-day appeal period before it is formally signed and approved by Rochester's Town Clerk.