EXETER – Members of the Exeter Town Council on Monday raised a series of new concerns around the Fish Barn, a unique and unfinished structure in town that has previously been the subject of both curiosity and consternation.
The Fish Barn, named so for its fish-like shape and a pair of eyes built on the roof, has been discussed by the council several times over the last few months, with the conversations mostly surrounding the dangers of passing motorists pulling over on the side of the road to get a better view of the structure.
However, now, two town councilors have brought forward further concerns about possible zoning violations.
The structure was previously in the process of being built by Karl Aughinbaugh on his farm, located on Ten Rod Road. The barn was originally intended to serve as a farm stand, with a garden planted around it, however after a local neighborhood association and some residents took issue with the attention the structure was drawing, Aughinbaugh decided to halt construction and put it up for sale.
Two large wooden carvings had also been placed in front of the Fish Barn, one of a cow and the other of a dog, both of which stood near the side of the road.
In September, a town council work session was held to focus solely on the Fish Barn, and concerns that were raised regarding motorists stopping on Ten Rod Road–which has a speed limit of 45 mph–to take a picture of the structure.
During the work session, council member Manny Andrews, who serves as the council’s public safety liaison, said that there had already been accidents because of vehicles suddenly pulling out of a makeshift spot alongside the road after having taken pictures of the Fish Barn.
At the end of the work session, the council requested that the two wooden carvings be moved further back from the street in order to attract less attention from motorists, which Aughinbaugh complied with and removed from the side of the road.
Soon after that, however, the town council discussed an official complaint they had received from Megan Sadler, who lives across the street from the Fish Barn, that included multiple safety and traffic concerns, as well as pictures of car crashes and motorists suddenly stopping in the road because of the structure.
And this week, Andrews and councilor Frank DiGregorio discussed further apprehension about the possibility of the Fish Barn violating the zoning ordinance.
First, DiGregorio pointed out that the farm–which includes the unfinished Fish Barn and a second barn–lacked a principal use or residence, a potential violation of the property’s zoning.
“First of all, there’s a barn that already exists on the site without a principal use. There’s no residence,” DiGregorio said. “There’s already a barn on the site without a residence and now there’s another barn on the site.”
“Does completing the fish barn constitute a second violation of this ordinance?” he asked.
He also said that the Fish Barn, which Aughinbaugh said was intended to serve as a farm stand, vastly exceeded the appropriate size, according to the zoning ordinance.
“The owner stated at the council work session that this was to be used as a farmstand,” he said. “A farmstand is limited to 200 square feet, per the Exeter zoning ordinance, and according to the building permit, the floor space is 1,348 square feet, without the basement.”
Finally, DiGregorio questioned the process through which the plans for the Fish Barn were developed.
“Did the owner tell the zoning inspector at the time of his application that this was supposed to be used as a farm stand or just as a barn?” he asked.
Andrews also focused on the permitting process, asking whether it was followed and, if not, how the town could move forward.
“The issue is, should someone have looked a little harder before the permit was issued? What’s the permitting process? Was it followed?” Andrews said. “Is there anything the town can do if the permitting process is not followed when you have a building of this nature?”
He also said that cars were still pulling over to view the Fish Barn, continuing to cause potential damage.
“And by the way, cars are still pulling over. I almost hit a vehicle that pulled out onto the road two days ago,” Andrews said. “So the problem still exists.”
While council members said the concerns couldn’t be resolved that night, they agreed to continue investigating the issue and discuss the matter further at next month’s council meeting.