HALIFAX– Halifax Selectmen met on Tuesday, April 12 and two major items dominated the meeting: an attempt to negotiate with Scott Clawson and Fieldstone Farms regarding an update to the 1993 legal contract with the town to give him more flexibility with his horseshows, and some bad news for Robert Bergstrom, who found out that due to zoning regulations, his planned “music event” to be held at Fieldstone Farms was not an acceptable use of the property in an agricultural zone, effectively ending the project as conceived. MudFest, held at Nessralla Farm, is also now in question, as the board may have erred in providing permits for the event previously, according to Robert Piccirilli, Halifax Building Inspector on advice of Town Counsel. The news was also not great for Clawson, who has been looking to diversify the events held at his farm.
Fieldstone Farms legal agreement
Scott Clawson, proprietor of Fieldstone Farms, was again before the board with his attorney, this time attempting to negotiate modifications to a years-old legal agreement that he and the town entered into in 1993 allowing him to hold commercial horse shows. The legal agreement was necessary because commercial horse shows were not considered an allowable agricultural use of the property at the time, which is in an agricultural/residential zone in Halifax.
Clawson wishes to add to the total number of shows per year that he can hold, but claims that for at least a few years they will not increase drastically. He also wants to allow more RVs to house staff – (up from 5 to 25) that often accompany the valuable horses on show days. His attorney also debated with the Fire Chief, Jason Viveiros, over the type of medical personnel necessary at the shows, at one point even questioning Viveiros as to who he had spoken to at the state-level for his information.
Viveiros took the questioning of his authority in stride, but appeared visibly surprised at the remark. Selectmen Chairman Kim Roy made it quite clear that speaking for herself, not the whole board, that she would take the advice of Chief Viveiros on that matter.
Clawson, who was recently called before the Board for advertising more horse shows than were in his agreement, did not escape a rebuke from Selectman Troy Garron during the negotiations, who reminded Clawson, “You do remember how we got here, right?”
Two neighbors were present, and another who was not present wrote the board, all with noise concerns, as well as a concern about trash after the shows. Clawson stated that he will do more to control noise in the future and will work with neighbors on any issues they have.
The board will continue to negotiate the draft agreement with Clawson, but is seeking input from abutters, neighbors and the public before approving any changes and moving forward with the legal process of changing the agreement.
Bombshell Dropped On Bergstrom
Charlie Seelig, Halifax Town Administrator, delivered some bad news to Robert Bergstrom, who is known for his MudFest truck-racing event and more recently for planning a large-scale two-day concert to be held at Fieldstone Farms this summer.
Seelig and Building Inspector Robert Piccirilli had done some further zoning research, and consulted Town Land Counsel, and all agree that commercial or entertainment events cannot be held on property in an agricultural zone.
Thus the concert will not happen without a change in zoning by-laws, which require both the planning board’s approval and a 2/3 vote at Town Meeting, which cannot happen this year given how quickly town meeting is coming up. Seelig said that zoning by-laws are notoriously difficult to change, even for a future year.
MudFest, held at Nessrella Farm, is now being called into question as well. Seelig stated his belief that the board may have erred in their decision to permit that event previously, as they didn’t have that information at the time.
Selectmen Roy and Garron expressed that they wished they had had this information earlier, and Piccirilli stated, “This was not my intention. I was really looking for a way to fit you in [to the zoning by-laws].”
The only hope for MudFest is if the area of the property where it is held happens to be in a “conservancy zone”, but other zoning challenges exist, such as crossing differently zoned property to get to the event.
Bergstrom has worked diligently with the board for several years to put together the MudFest event that the board was initially skeptical towards, but has been increasingly popular and well-known, and the board did come around to support it in the past. Sadly for Bergstrom, it may need to find a new home.
In other news:
Town Clerk Barbara Gaynor is requesting that all Town Census forms, which were due in late January, be returned to Town Hall as soon as possible.