Old Homestead Farm in New Ipswich requests variance for short-term rental cabins

Zoning Board members Walker Farrey and David Lage deliberate on a proposal for short-term rental cabins at Old Homestead Farm during a meeting on Thursday.

Zoning Board members Walker Farrey and David Lage deliberate on a proposal for short-term rental cabins at Old Homestead Farm during a meeting on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI


Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 04-16-2024 8:31 AM

Modified: 04-23-2024 12:13 PM

The owners of Old Homestead Farm in New Ipswich were back before the Zoning Board on Thursday seeking a new variance to expand a previously approved business on their farm by adding short-term rental cabins.

The farm, owned by Chelsea and Ben Hatcher, has already been approved for a variance to allow an event pavilion, where the Hatchers plan to host weddings, parties, dances and community events. The Hatchers have yet to complete the process of town approval by going to the Planning Board for a site plan review, and on Thursday, indicated they would hold off on that step until their proposal to expand went through the Zoning Board, so as to present a complete picture to the Planning Board.

Chelsea Hatcher explained that while preparing plans for the event space, they realized that they did not have an area for bridal parties to get ready. They proposed building five cabins, one about twice as large as the others to function as a bridal suite and the others to serve as potential lodging for wedding or other event guests on a short-term basis.

While that would be the main motivation, Chelsea Hatcher said the couple was attempting to make the rooms as “multi-functional” as possible, and were also seeking permission to allow short-term stays year-round, as potential lodging for visitors or people attending other events in town, such as the annual music festival Hillfest.

“People travel for that,” pointed out Ben Hatcher, noting that New Ipswich currently doesn’t have any inns or similar places to stay in town, and this would offer an alternative.

Chelsea Hatcher said the cabins would be pre-fabricated and delivered to the farm, and would be hooked into electricity and plumbing, but would not have a full kitchen. She argued that though the town’s ordinance does not specifically address the kind of model they are proposing, the zone the farm is in does allow both inns and campgrounds (although the campground ordinance specifies tents and campers, not cabins) by special exception, suggesting that the short-term stay cabins were in line spiritually with those allowances.

Chelsea Hatcher said the cabins would allow for the “creature comforts” of home, but with a focus on the surrounding farm for an “upscale glamping” feel. She said it was part of the farm’s continuing mission to support the working aspects of the farmland.

“The more people spend time at the farm, the more people care about the farm,” she said.

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The board agreed that the Hatchers had included the information needed to accept the application and set a date for public hearing, but asked for some things to be included in the official presentation, including a fire plan, whether the buildings would or must have sprinklers, a restriction on the duration a guest could stay, a cap on the number of guests and any other restrictions the Hatchers would like to be taken into consideration.

The board unanimously voted to accept the application as complete., set a site walk of Old Homestead Farm for April 23 at 5 p.m. and a public hearing on the variance application for May 9 at 6 p.m.

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