Old Homestead Farm proposes short-stay cabins to supplement event business

Ben Hatcher meets with the Zoning Board to discuss an expansion of a previously approved event business on his Greenville Road property, Old Homestead Farm.

Ben Hatcher meets with the Zoning Board to discuss an expansion of a previously approved event business on his Greenville Road property, Old Homestead Farm. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 03-12-2024 8:18 AM

A previously approved event business on Greenville Road may be seeking an expansion before it gets off the ground, adding short-stay cabins to a planned event venue.

Ben and Chelsea Hatcher, owner of Old Homestead Farm in New Ipswich, appeared before the Zoning Board on Thursday, to discuss the proposal, prior to submitting a formal application.

The couple was granted a variance in November to build a pavilion and host events such as weddings, parties, reunions and events at the farm, but has yet to complete the Planning Board site plan approval process. While completing the conditions laid by the Zoning Board and preparing for the Planning Board process, Chelsea Hatcher explained that they had further conversations about amenities related to hosting weddings at the farm, namely a bridal suite for couples to get ready in.

While looking into the possibility of a suite, the couple became interested in expanding the idea and hosting several cabins on the property, which would be used for overnight stays for event guests.

Ben Hatcher said he would not rule out renting the cabins outside of wedding events, such as for and Airbnb-style stay, but would only entertain short-term stays, and not permanent tenancy. The couple proposed to the board building up to five cabins, including one larger one for a bridal suite, which would be tied into a foundation and include full electric and plumbing, including a bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom. The Hatchers said they turned to the town’s zoning code to determine how they should seek permission for such an arrangement, but noted that there was no one-size-fits-all section that the ordinance would fall under.

The couple met with the Zoning Board on Thursday during a conceptual hearing – an informal process that precedes an actual application – to discuss possible options, which included seeking a special exception under the town’s campground ordinance, seeking a variance to allow additional accessory dwelling units or multi-family units.

ZBA member David Lage noted that the town’s density control only allows one residence per lot in most cases. Upon reviewing the town’s campsite regulations, they reference tents and RVs, and not cabins, though the board acknowledged many campgrounds include cabins.

Ben Hatcher said he was not opposed to creating a space for tent camping for guests, with accommodation such as a portable toilet or shower, to supplement the cabins, if it helped to meet the campground definition, but would also want to have the cabins in supplement.

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The board delved into multi-family and two-family, as well as accessory dwelling unit regulations, but agreed the Hatcher’s proposal did not perfectly fit any of those, even if they limited it to a single extra bridal suite, as they were not intended to be permanent residences.

The board discussed some options with the Hatchers, ultimately suggesting that they would likely have to apply for a variance to one of the existing ordinances, whichever one they felt they most closely fit.

The Hatchers agreed to research the issue and return to the board with a formal application.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.