4 Corners Café in Wilton to continue operations

WILTON – The Zoning Board of Adjustment has received a request from Joseph Gottstein to rehear the granting of a variance to allow expansions at Hilltop Cafe at Four Corners Farm in Wilton.

The cafe will continue to operate under the original terms of the variance and site plan until the request is heard by the ZBA on Feb. 17, with one exception. The Board of Selectmen last week approved Sunday brunch, provided another day is closed to meet the five-day-per week allowed in the original site plan.

Gottstein, a resident of Abbott Hill Road, states in his application for rehearing that he is directly affected by expanded operations of a commercial enterprise in a residential/
agricultural zone. He said he believes the ZBA “acted without reasonable exploration of the facts,” and the use “represents spot zoning.” He also cites a decrease in property values and increased traffic.

Lincoln Geiger, manager of Four Corners Farm, met informally with the Board of Selectman on Jan. 20 to discuss the hours of operation during the interim. He was not on the agenda for the meeting.

He asked if he could continue Sunday brunch, which is popular, and to continue to use an additional 10 seats, for a total of 24, as approved by the variance granted on Dec. 10.

The selectmen decided the cafe should operate only during the original hours but could open on Sunday if it closed another day. They also said he could not use the expanded seating unless they were reaffirmed by the ZBA and the Planning Board.

Geiger’s request had the full support of Selectman Rick Swanson, partial support of Bill Condra and no support from Chairman Dan Donovan, who listed several concerns.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much from constituents as about the cafe,” he said. “We are hearing allegations that there are 30 seats. Rock concerts were held (last summer) in violation of the site plan. We have heard that some (area) residents have retained counsel to appeal if the variance isn’t reheard. I’m very troubled by the comments that this is a residential neighborhood and the cafe should move downtown.”

Swanson said he saw the cafe “as a good thing. Traffic is negligible, the food is great, farm-to-
table is a great thing. They aren’t doing criminal things. We should help them come into compliance.”

Condra said, “It is unfair to the Planning Board, and other boards, to put the Planning Board into the position of waiting for a site plan review to be completed when the process is underway. What you’ve come in to request you are already doing.”

It was noted that some renovations had been made to a door and window of the farmhouse, a late 1700s building listed on the Historic Register. The site plan states no changes will be made without prior approval, which the farm did not apply for.

Geiger said he was just asking for Sunday, not the other 10 seats.

Donovan also said he was concerned that Geiger had “just dropped in” and wasn’t on the posted agenda.

Geiger agreed he should have come to the town sooner.

The Hilltop Cafe opened in fall 2010 as what Geiger saw as “a community gathering place.”

Four Corners is operated as the Temple-Wilton Community Farm, which dates to 1986, and serves about 125 families. It is the only dairy farm left in Wilton. It also is closely associated with High Mowing and Pine Hill schools. Most of the produce served at the cafe is home grown.

The request for rehearings can be found at http://town.lyndeborough.nh.us/pages/LyndeboroughNH_Bcomm/ZBA/index.