The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 16, 2010

Variance sought for sheep shed

Applicant and property renter Judy Asarkof and her two fellow sheep farmers appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals to request a variance for their shed at the corner of Maple Street and Bedford Road, constructed for the purposes of raising lambs and keeping sheep. As new sheep farmers, the applicants stated that they had reviewed the Massachusetts agricultural laws and determined that the shed’s current location was ideal to meet the needs of their sheep and lambs. The location was on a higher point of the nine-acre property so that water did not collect in the shed, the shed received the benefits of electricity and fire accessibility from its location close to Bedford Road and also its location close to the road gave the herd some protection from predators.

Asarkof said that they had not thought about the requirement to comply with the Carlisle Zoning Bylaws (specifically section 7.5), which was brought to their attention when Building Inspector John Luther was called to the area concerning a different complaint about a possible unlicensed dog-herding business. Luther noticed the proximity of the shed to the road – that it was not within the 30-foot required setback from the property line. He advised them that they must request a zoning variance from the board or move the shed to a compliant area.

The property owners, the Woodwards, appeared in person to show their support of their tenants and for the requested variance, as did another Carlisle farmer, Leslie Thomas of Prospect Street, who is also a friend of the applicants.

Other neighbors and property abutters, Suzanne and Sam Pietropaolo, testified that they were concerned about where the shed would ultimately be located if the variance were not granted and the shed had to be moved. Suzanne Pietroapaolo remarked that moving the shed closer to the neighbors might cause hardship on the abutters, because of the manure smells, which she said were problematic. Board member Kent Gonzales said that generally speaking, any special permit or variance would not be granted if it would cause undue hardship to abutters.

Vice-chair Kevin T. Smith said that he personally felt that the applicants had made a mistake in where they located the shed, but had not adequately made their case for hardship. “My personal feeling is that you haven’t proven your case. If you want to ask us to continue the hearing, we can do that.”

New board member Lisa Davis Lewis concurred: “Looking at this map, it is not clear why you chose the location for the shed. Why not [another location] on the property? I served on the Board of Health for several years and when people appeared before us, they would present very detailed plans; topography, for example.”

Abutter Sam Pietropaolo also commented that he was glad for the ZBA hearing because he felt he was finally getting some “transparency” into what was going on at their neighbor’s sheep farm. Pietropaolo claimed that the sheep shed issue was an ancillary problem to what he claimed was the real issue: a business which trains herding dogs. Luther commented that this spring he’d gotten a call from neighbors saying that the applicants had “people coming in from other parts of the country” who were “parking all over the place and creating a nuisance for the neighbors.” Regarding training dogs to herd sheep, Luther said, “ For your own dogs, and not doing it for a business, it’s okay. I just happened to make an observation about the shed when I was there doing my investigation regarding the dog herding.”

The board and the applicants agreed to continue the hearing until July 28, at which time the applicants could present additional data that supports their case for the variance request.

Other business

In other business, the board heard a request for a special permit to reconstruct and enlarge a pre-existing, non-conforming garage at 303 Russell Street. A friend appeared on behalf of applicants Greg and Brooke Mackintosh, who are currently on their honeymoon, to present the case for the special permit. Before the proxy for the applicant could begin his presentation, he was called out to the Town Hall lobby by Luther. When they returned a few moments later, Luther and the proxy applicant asked to continue the hearing based on new, additional information that may require the applicant to “rearrange what they are doing.” The board granted the request and agreed to continue the hearing until July 28 at 8 p.m. ∆

© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito