The Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, March 27, heard a request from the new owners of Millstone Farm to build an equestrian riding facility on the 70-acre property.
The farm was bought last year by Volckert van Reesema and his wife, Eliane, who is an international dressage rider. She has boarded and trained her horses in rented facilities in nearby Westchester County. Instead of continuing to keep them there, the proposed equestrian facility would enable her to bring the horses to Millstone Farm. There would be no equestrian events or competitions on the property or in the proposed facilities.
According to Matt Motley, who runs the van Reesema family office and is the manager of Millstone Property Holdings LLC, the name on the application, the horses would live at Millstone Farm from mid-April through October, before going to Florida, by way of Kentucky, during the fall and winter months.
“Part of the reason [the van Reesemas] bought Millstone Farm was to continue the farming,” attorney Casey Healy said at the public hearing. “But they saw it as an opportunity when they had the horses up there, they can be on their own property and run their own operation, which is what they do in Florida.”
Project engineer David Sessions and Dylan Zublin of Old Town Barns walked the commission through the proposed layout, which includes a 20-stall horse barn, an 80-by-210-foot indoor riding ring and a 230-by-100-foot outdoor riding ring. The plan includes a request to expand the driveway into the property to accommodate larger vehicles coming in from and going out to Millstone Road. A primary septic system, along with an expansion, would also be needed, as well as screening for a Dumpster area and for headlights on cars parked facing west.
The commission had questions about lighting for the buildings and safety for the farm employees, since they would have to come for night checks on the horses. The commission also questioned the containment of manure storage. The Millstone representatives said they’d check on if it was sealed or watertight.
There are still a few hurdles to overcome. A conservation restriction was put in place in 2001 that prohibits subdivision of the property, although the owners do have the right to create a single three-acre building lot.
Healy noted the restriction would have to be modified in order to accommodate the location and size of the structures. The restriction also puts forth a location problem for the proposed facilities.
“For whatever reason, the restriction has [the barn and indoor riding ring] over to the left where the outdoor riding ring is and above, which topographically and from an engineering standpoint does not make any sense,” said Healy. “So it’s a location and a size [issue].”
While Town Planner Bob Nerney said the commission can’t use a covenant as a basis to address a zoning issue, he urged Millstone Property Holdings to have discussions with the town to determine whether or not the covenant conditions were put in place to protect the character of the area to assure development consistency with the surrounding uses.
“We’re not asking the commission to take any action tonight,” Healy told the commission, saying that a special permit alone won’t do Millstone any good. “We ask that the commission continue so we can go meet with the Board of Selectmen next week.”
Millstone Property Holdings is scheduled to appear before the selectmen to discuss the issue on April 3 during their regularly scheduled meeting.