Millstone Farm approvals made

The Planning and Zoning Commission gave its approval with conditions Dec. 18 for a plan by the owners of Millstone Farm to add a barn and indoor horse riding ring with parking.

The Board of Selectmen, on the same night, approved a draft amendment to the existing Conservation Restriction Agreement for the property, which must be agreed to by the owners.

The owners, Eliane and Volckert van Reesema, needed the approvals on a deadline because they want to complete the work on their farm in time for the spring, when their show horses will arrive from their winter homes in the South.

The draft amendment approved by Selectwomen Lori Bufano and Deborah McFadden and First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice includes the following terms, which Vanderslice said are consistent with the concept the Board of Selectmen agreed to on Nov. 6:

  • The indoor ring will not exceed 14,000 square feet or a 40% reduction of the allowed square footage in the current Conservation Restriction Agreement.

  • The septic system will be allowed to be located in a specific area outside the Reserved Residential Area.

  • The hoop houses are allowed to remain on the property.

  • Millstone will clear and mark the town’s trail right-of-way.

  • Millstone will cure two specific outstanding Conservation Restriction Agreement violations, which are also zoning violations.

  • After execution, Millstone has the option to work with the town and engage a trail builder to design, at Millstone’s cost, an alternate mutually agreeable trail. Millstone would then fund the cost to build the trail, and once it was completed, the town would use that trail as the public access trail.

The amendment provides the town with additional conservation benefits, as there will be less disturbance with a smaller building, Vanderslice said. The town obtains the additional public benefit of the trails being cleared and marked, and the farming operation, which many residents appreciate, can remain.

Millstone’s proposed draft amendment included the first three terms listed above, Vanderslice said. Rather than clearing and marking the town’s trail right-of-way, Millstone proposed clearing and marking a trail of its choosing after consultation with the Wilton Land Conservation Trust. None of the members of the Wilton Conservation Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the town’s trails, supported Millstone’s proposed trail location. The commission suggested the concept described in the sixth term above. Millstone’s proposed draft amendment does not include the fifth term, though at this past Saturday’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen and the Conservation Commission, the property manager for Millstone said they would be willing to address the fifth term.

The vote was 3-2. Selectman Dave Clune voted no because he preferred Millstone’s proposed trail, so he preferred Millstone’s proposed draft amendment. Selectman Mike Kaelin voted no because he proposed his own trail location, different from the town’s right-of-way.

“The town is hopeful the owners of Millstone will agree to the proposed amendment. We very much appreciate their desire to maintain the farm while returning horses to the property. Their ownership will bring a new and interesting element to Wilton. The members of the Conservation Commission and the Town hope to work with them and the Land Trust to develop a new trail which meets all of our needs,” Vanderslice said in an email following the meeting.

The owners did not respond Dec. 19 to an email seeking comment through their attorney.

Attorney Elliot Kaiman of Wiggin and Dana in New Haven, their attorney, has promised that the equine facility would operate alongside the working farm, which supplies produce to local markets.

The farming is done largely in existing greenhouses on the property, Kaiman said.

“These greenhouses are important to farm use,” Kaiman said.

The 19,000-square-foot equine facilities would be built on a portion of the property reserved for residential use. The current agreement did not allow for both equine facilities and the hoop houses necessary for farming, which is why a change to the conservation easement was needed for the 71-acre farm.