Londonderry man denied variance to house horse
Jay Barrett, 107 Wiley Hill Road, appeared before the board Wednesday in hopes of keeping the horse he'd recently inherited.
Barrett said he built a stall and paddock area on his property last year after a friend's daughter was injured in a car accident. He'd initially planned to house the horse there temporarily while the young woman recovered. After she died from her injuries, Barrett decided he wanted to keep the animal permanently.
A single father of two grown children, Barrett's 18-year-old son, Jacob, suffers from cerebral palsy and has endured a grueling round of back surgeries. Barrett said his son has enjoyed having the horse on the premises for the therapeutic riding benefits. Barrett's home, which abuts 35 acres of conservation land, is situated on a 1.6-acre lot.
The town requires residents who keep livestock on their properties to have a lot of two acres or more. Barrett said the situation was brought to the town's attention last spring when Building Inspector Richard Canuel saw the horse during a home visit on an unrelated matter - a variance to allow Barrett to add a caregiver's apartment to the house for Jacob's live-in nurse.
Barrett said he was denied a permit for the apartment and feels like he's been harassed by the town ever since.
During Wednesday's public hearing, zoning board member Neil Dunn read a letter written by Brendan Burns, one of Barrett's neighbors.
Burns, who wasn't present at the meeting, wrote that he'd initially been supportive of Barrett's situation, but after a full summer of having the horse nearby, the manure odor became unbearable. "There were summer nights we were unable to sit outside and open our windows. We can't go through another fall with this odor," Burns wrote. He also noted that the horse had broken free from its enclosure on several occasions and urinated on his lawn.
Burns wrote that he realizes the animal offers therapeutic benefits for Barrett's son, and he doesn't mind having the horse come and visit from time to time. "But not full time," he wrote, "though we have no problem having (the horse stay) there until other suitable arrangements can be made."
Barrett's adult daughter, Jillian, a college student who lives with her father and brother, said she didn't feel the horse presented any problems. "There are numerous stables in the neighborhood. I'm just seeking this variance for one horse," she said.
As an animal science student, Jillian said she knows many people who'd appreciate the manure for their gardens as a way of removing the source of the manure odor.
Jay Barrett said he felt it would be too expensive to board the animal, as the family is already financially strapped. He said he took personal issue with Canuel, the building inspector, notifying his neighbors of the public hearing in person rather than by certified letter.
"I'm kind of confused as to why he did that. (The neighbors) were fine about it until Richard went and talked to them," Barrett said.
Zoning board member Larry Callahan said the town's two-acre livestock rule is there for a reason. "We're very specific about this because there's the health of the animal and the health and well-being of the neighbors to consider," he said.
Neighbor Michael Carroll said he "had no problems with the horse living next door," but he admitted he had some concerns "about safety and smell."
"We love the horse; it's a beautiful horse," he added. "And we don't want anything to happen to it."
"I'd feel much more comfortable with this if no one had complained about the odors," Dunn said. "I hate these cases like this because you can't win either way."
After lengthy debate, the zoning members voted unanimously to deny Barrett's variance request.
Canuel said he's willing to work with Barrett and allow him "adequate time" to find new lodging for the horse.
"There needs to be a reasonable effort made to find a solution. If warmer weather gets here and there's no efforts made, then we've got a problem," board member James Smith said. "So we want to see you put up a good-faith effort to find a solution."