At last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice gave her fellow board members a surprising update on the town’s ongoing struggle with Millstone Farm: on Friday, Oct. 4, zoning enforcement officer Tim Bunting issued a cease and desist order to the owners of the property.
According to Vanderslice, town officials learned that the owners of Millstone Farm have converted what was originally a single family residence into exclusive commercial space, changing bedrooms into commercial offices. Those office spaces are also occupied by a greater number of businesses than for what the property has permits. In addition, a second kitchen has been built on the second floor of the former residential structure and work on that was done without anyone associated with Millstone Farm obtaining permits from the town.
photos of the residence during previous owners’ ownership of the property
The work that apparently has been done means the property is no longer in compliance with Wilton’s zoning regulations. Millstone Farm has a special permit to operate as a working farm in a residential zone, but because there is no longer a residence, it no longer aligns with those zoning regulations.
“They are running a business. What was supposed to be a residence, they are running businesses out of–they’ve changed the use, basically,” Vanderslice said.
The situation puts in jeopardy recent discussions between the town and the property’s owners regarding changes to the conservation easement agreement that has been in place with the town for many years. At the last Board of Selectmen meeting, BOS members heard a presentation about the difficulty town officials have been having trying to work with Millstone to negotiate an agreement over public use of a trail and other work being done on the property.
“Some remember, when we were negotiating agreement there was a single family residence,” Vanderslice said, noting that any discussion of allowable changes to the trail is off the table for the foreseeable future, and that the town will “see that our laws and regulations will be followed.”
Under the cease and desist, the property owners have 10 days to respond. In addition, they can file an appeal with Wilton’s Zoning Board of Appeals–something Vanderslice says officials expect will happen.
In the past neighbors have complained about events that have been held at the property, citing noise and other disruptions in the neighborhood. During a public hearing at a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting last spring, it was discovered that the owners were not in compliance with the property’s current permit and they were later told by town officials that they needed to cease holding such events unless they obtained temporary special event permits–and that they would be limited to holding only two such events per 12 month period, under zoning regulations.
Last month, Millstone Farm held an event that was billed as a “farm to table fundraiser” for a non-profit, to which tickets were being sold. At the time, representatives from Millstone were questioning whether they needed to get a temporary event permit in order to hold the dinner–something they eventually did.
They recently began advertising for a second event to be held at the farm, again a farm-to-table fundraiser for a local non-profit, scheduled for Oct. 24. According to Vanderslice, a representative from Millstone Farm went to Town Hall Monday to obtain a temporary event permit, only to be denied. “They were informed today that they can’t have a temporary event permit–they are not eligible with a cease and desist or zoning violation in place,” Vanderslice said.