Farmer Allowed to Graze Cattle in Gateway Business District

Steve Normanton of Normanton Farms, LLC of Litchfield and Attorney Amy Manzelli of the law firm BCM Environmental & Land Law were successful in seeking a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) to allow pasturing of cattle in the Gateway Business District at 68 Rear Harvey Road, 68 Rear Litchfield Road, 51 Pettengill Road and 65 Pettengill Road.

“Essentially this case is about the local food movement and New Hampshire leading the way in the growing of small scale agricultural products,” Manzelli said. “Normanton Farms fits right in there with an expanding operation, which resulted in a temporary need to pasture cattle on these lots.”

Manzelli said the use would only be necessary until Dec. 31, 2016.

“Agriculture is not allowed by permitted right in the Gateway Business District. It is allowed, permitted by right in the residential district, which is included in part of this area,” Manzelli said.

Manzelli said one of the lots was residential and therefore pasturing would be permitted by right.

“Through the terms of the leases, the owners of the property retain the right to terminate the leases and sally forth with what is the ultimate fate of these lots, which is some of the commercial and industrial development like Milton CAT and other such uses,” she said. “Many of these lots are uniquely situated because they are large, undeveloped, no frontage lots essentially not being used right now.”

Manzelli said that because of Normanton’s temporary need and the landowners’ desire to support local agriculture, “that’s how the cows came to be pastured on this land that’s otherwise not being put to productive use right now.”
Manzelli said it was brought to their attention that cows pasturing on the land was not a permitted use and a variance application was stated as possible in a letter received by Normanton.

“That letter requested that cattle no longer be pastured by July 6, 2014 and I promised you in my letter that the cattle would be removed by then and I’m sorry to say that they weren’t, but they were removed first thing in the morning on July 7,” Manzelli said.

She said Normanton Farms is a successful diversified farm with cattle, pigs, chickens and organic vegetables in Litchfield.

Board member Annette Stoller asked if other animals would be pastured on the lots and Normanton said it would only be cattle.

Board member Jackie Benard asked the number of cattle. “What’s the least amount and what’s the most that would be on the land?” Benard asked.

“The least amount would be zero and the most, about 150 head, based on what the feed availability is like,” Normanton said.

Acting Chairman Neil Dunn asked if any existing easements were going through the land and Manzelli cited a wildlife corridor along the bottom third of the southernmost lot.

Normanton said he would put up fencing to keep the cattle from that area, noting that he would keep the livestock away from running water to protect the water quality.

Greg Fornier of Hudson said he supported the farm and Normanton and noted his son was an employee.

Resident Brian Templeton said he was an employee of Normanton Farms and supported granting the variance.

Resident Todd Erickson said he too supported what Normanton was doing but had issues with the fact the cows had been housed on the land without proper permitting. He asked when the town become aware of it.

“I’m assuming the landowner knew that it was not zoned for livestock, and did he knowingly invite Steve in there?” Erickson said.

Dunn said the permitting issue prior to the hearing was outside the purview of the ZBA, which was only interested in what was before the board as far as granting or refusing the variance request.

During deliberations Benard asked if the term “livestock” would include sheep, pigs or other animals.
Manzelli said livestock included all manner of four-footed animal but what the applicant was going to graze on the land would only be cattle.

Dunn said he was glad the board had been told that Dec. 31, 2016 would be the life of the lease.

The board voted unanimously to grant the variance with restrictions: that only cattle be pastured on the lots, that the variance would sunset on Dec. 31, 2016, that the cattle would be kept from the wildlife corridor, the variance would terminate if the lease to the land terminated, and that Normanton was required to inform the town of any termination of the leases.

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