Planning Commission approves horse farm subdivision

The Charlotte Planning Commission has approved a Connecticut couple’s request to subdivide 54 acres near Mt. Philo to build three homes and an equestrian therapy center.

The proposal attracted attention this spring as it went through local permitting hearings where residents and other town committee members raised concerns about the impact the development might have on scenic views from Mount Philo, and on Kimball Brook which crosses the property.

Applicants Susan Bellek and Imanol Echevarria bought the undeveloped Charlotte property near the intersection of Mount Philo Road and State Park Road last summer with the hopes of building a home and business.

In its decision dated June 28, the Planning Commission addressed concerns raised by the proposal by placing 16 specific conditions on the project, many of which were centered on maintaining the views. It included guidance on how big the buildings on the property could be, that the property could not be further subdivided, and that the owners would enter into an open-space agreement with the town.

At a May Planning Commission hearing for the subdivision, Echevarria agreed to work on an open-space agreement. “I want to grow old here. I don’t want more houses,” Echevarria told the Planning Commission.

Echevarria is an international show jumping rider, a Royal Spanish Equestrian Federation instructor, and a certified therapeutic riding instructor at their current home in Connecticut. He hopes to continue teaching and riding in Vermont at the Charlotte site.

In addition to building their own home, Bellek and Echevarria’s plans call for a horse barn for their five or so horses with space to board about a dozen more horses, they told planners.

The subdivision plan would carve the site into three parcels: the largest for themselves and two 5-acre parcels to sell to others to build homes. Income from selling the lots would be used to build the horse farm. After months of back and forth with the Planning Commission, the couple said they are ecstatic the with the decision.

“We are thrilled to receive the conditional approval from the Planning commission for our three-lot subdivision on Mount Philo Road,” Bellek said. “We can’t wait to move forward with our 44-acre farm, Four Meadows Farm.”

“Creating this equestrian facility will be a dream come true for us, and we are eager to do business and create jobs in Charlotte,” Bellek said.

For now, however, construction is on hold until the couple can sell the two lots, she added.

The decision was approved by four of the Planning Commission’s seven members: Chair Peter Joslin, Vice Chair Charlie Pughe, Gerald Bouchard and Marty Illick voted yes on the decision.

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