Zoning meeting about pigs in Penacook draws police involvement
A Concord zoning board meeting escalated into police involvement Wednesday night after a Penacook couple was denied a variance to raise pigs on their property.
Kelly and Jacqueline Brochu began raising two pigs on their Abbott Road property this spring. The city then received an anonymous complaint about the pigs, said Zoning Administrator Craig Walker, and the Brochus had to appear before the zoning board to continue raising their pigs.
After their request was unanimously rejected Wednesday night, Kelly Brochu began to shout at the zoning board members in the city council chambers.
“I’m keeping them,” he said. “I don’t give a s--t what you’ve got to say. I don’t even know who the hell you are. I don’t care. You have no idea.”
Brochu and others in the room continued to shout. Nicholas Wallner, who was leading the meeting, said into the microphone that he had pressed the “panic button” to contact the police.
Police Chief John Duval said residents “screaming for help” entered the police department lobby next door at roughly the same time.
“They were concerned about potential issues in the area of Abbott Road subsequent to the hearing,” Duval said. “The case was opened, and we are currently looking at it to determine what happened and if any crimes were committed.”
Jacqueline Brochu said yesterday the two pigs will be slaughtered by the end of the month to comply with the zoning board decision.
“But as of the meeting, I have nothing to say about that to be honest,” she said. “We were just denied, we weren’t happy about it and that was it.”
The heated exchange between the Brochus and the zoning board came after a calm public hearing, during which several neighbors testified about the Brochus’ pigs. Most of them were in favor of granting a zoning variance and said the pigs did not bother them.
Scroll to 1:08:00 on the video provided by ConcordTV above to see the exchange.
The Brochus own nearly an acre on Abbott Road in Penacook. They told the board they purchased the pigs this spring to provide meat during the winter months, when they may not have much money for food. They hoped to purchase two pigs each spring to butcher in the fall when they weigh more than 200 pounds.
“They’re a working-class family and the pigs will help them,” Keith Thibeault of Snow Street told the zoning board. “I didn’t even know he had pigs in there until he said, ‘By the way, we have pigs in there.’ ”
Several other neighbors said they have never smelled the pigs, and an additional six neighbors sent letters to the zoning board in support of the Brochus. Kelly Brochu told the board he cleans the pigs every day. The pigs have escaped a few times this summer, he said, but he apologized to the neighbors. He said they are kept in a gated area behind an electric fence and rarely make squealing noises.
But three women who live closer to the pigs than some of the other neighbors said they are troubled by the pigs’ smell. Natalie Friedenthal of Bean Street said she felt uncomfortable disagreeing with her neighbors, but lives only 90 feet from the pigs.
“I open my door out and it goes straight out to the pig area and this is when I smell pigs: anytime it rains; anytime it’s moist in the morning; anytime there’s dew on the ground; anytime it’s moist at nighttime,” she said. “When I’m sleeping in my bedroom with the fans on and the windows open, I smell pigs in my bedroom about twice a week.”
Sally Salmon of Hobart Street said she has not been able to enjoy her yard this summer.
“The smell is truly awful,” she told the zoning board. “I have gotten up out of the swimming pool many times this summer and said, ‘I can’t take it, I have to go in.’ ”
After the public hearing, zoning board members voiced concern about granting a variance.
“I can sympathize certainly with the folks, but I think it’s opening up a pretty big exception,” said board member David Parker.
Walker, the zoning administrator, said swine are only permitted in residential open space zoning districts under the city’s zoning ordinance, with a minimum lot size of 2 acres. The property in question is zoned for single-family residential use.
Immediately after Wallner announced that the variance was denied, Kelly Brochu moved to the front of the room and began shouting. Wallner declined to comment yesterday about the meeting or his use of the panic button.
The police cannot name anyone involved in the police investigation while it is ongoing, Duval said.
Walker said it’s the first time he has seen an alarm used during a zoning board meeting.
“We generally have very calm meetings,” he said.
A video of the meeting recorded by Concord TV is available online at yourconcordtv.org.