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Dunbarton neighbors cry foul over proposed chicken barn

DUNBARTON — A plan to build a barn that will house 20,000 egg-laying hens on an 85-acre property off Route 13 is being opposed by neighbors.

Merlin and Kimberly Chapman, through their attorney, have filed an appeal with the zoning board arguing that an earlier planning board meeting improperly determined that Thomas Giovagnoli’s proposed use of his property was a permitted one under the zoning ordinance.

“To the extent that the action included a decision by the planning board that the proposed use is agricultural rather than commercial, it is inconsistent with a prior determination made by the Dunbarton building inspector,” wrote John Sokul Jr., attorney for the Chapmans.

Giovagnoli said his land is zoned agricultural, adding that he purchased it 13 years ago from another farmer who “used it as a turkey farm for years and years.” His plan calls for building a barn that measures 46 feet wide by 588 feet long and 8 feet high “smack dab in the middle of the property,” he said.

“The barn is further than a quarter-mile off the road,” Giovagnoli said. “It’s not like I’m trying to build it on top of anybody.” He said he would be installing a “proven system” to deal with the manure generated by the birds, and that his plans have been reviewed by the Natural Resource Conservation Service and a UNH professor. In addition, he said, he is in the process of becoming certified as an organic farmer.

“To be certified there’s certain criteria to meet,” he said. “It’s not like some kind of sloppy operation where I’m going to be flushing manure into the groundwater.”

Giavagnoli said he’s been farming his whole life, and his late father, John, ran a pig farm in Manchester “for 60 years without any problems.”

Two other abutters, Ann West and Craig Webb, circulated a letter to other abutters saying that runoff from the hen house would contaminate the groundwater, pollute the air with ammonia and lead to an increase in the rodent population, causing a decrease in surrounding property values.

The zoning board is scheduled to hear the appeal of the planning board’s site plan review sometime next month.

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