Abutters petition against Silver Scone Teas

  • Nancy Clark, who has been representing a group of neighbors appealing decisions that would allow the operation of Silver Scone Teas. —STAFF FILE PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/18/2023 1:20:43 PM

With the Zoning Board retaking up the case of Silver Scone Teas this week, after its previous approval of the variance to allow the business was remanded to the board after review by the state’s Housing Appeals Board, neighbors to the business have started a petition to protect the neighborhood from what they call “commercial development.”

This Thursday, the Zoning Board is expected to revisit its previous decision, made on Dec. 1, to approve an application for a variance allowing Silver Scone to operate a part-time tea business out of owner Jane Elwell’s home on River Road in New Ipswich’s Bank Village. The Housing Appeals Board vacated the decision after an appeal by a group of neighbors, finding that the ZBA had erred in two ways – that a member had showed bias by “liking” a Facebook post discussing Elwell’s home and its use as a business and failing to issue a written decision with specific findings within the time period required by law.

Rob Fournier, one of the neighbors who started the petition, said it is an attempt to show that it is not just “a small group” that has objections to businesses in the Village District, noting that variances carry with the property, and a future owner could also have a similar venture. A group of neighbors, represented by Nancy Clark, has appealed several decisions favorable to Silver Scone.

“We are definitely not against Silver Scones, the business. We’re against the Millbrook House Event Center, where Silver Scones wants to operate from. We only ask that she find a properly zoned property to hold her events. It’s totally unfair to the neighborhood, and will definitely affect real estate values,” Fournier said.

The petition and email campaign, which was put on online petition website Rally Starter last week, has gathered 170 signatures.

Elwell said the petition inflated the issue and contained several inaccuracies, characterizing the business as a commercial development despite being held in an existing home, and suggesting it would be full-time and include alcohol and live music, which Elwell said was not part of her application and was not approved by the Zoning Board in its first set of hearings.

She said she has had family functions and barbecues where beer was served, but never for a tea party. She was originally approved for up to four events a month, not a full-time business, and that the advertising of her business is not as widespread as claimed. Also, while the petition claims she advertises events including weddings and a fox hunt, the only wedding she has ever held on her property was her daughter’s, and there have been fox-hunt-themed events, but not actual hunts.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Elwell said. “They’ve completely put it out of context. I’m not an event center, I’m not a restaurant, they know all this. I’m not a commercial developer by any means. It’s just tea parties.”

A petition on Rally Starter started by Elwell during the zoning and planning board processes last year in support of the businesses gathered a total of 1,249 signatures.

Elwell also said characterizing the Bank Village as solely residential is inaccurate, saying there have been businesses before and currently, including a machine shop, antique shop, photography studio and ski shop.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgert ranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.

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