Wellspring Farm at center of two state investigations

By Georgia Sparling and Tanner Harding | Apr 05, 2017

Rochester — Wellspring Farm is again defending itself against allegations of illegal conduct while the Zoning Board of Appeals was deemed to have violated open meeting laws in relation to an inspection of the farm.

The Hiller Road farm, owned by Jim and Holly Vogel, works with disabled children through therapeutic horseback riding. For more than a year the Vogels have faced unhappy neighbors who say traffic to and from the farm is unsafe. Abutter Cathy Mendoza has also complained of noise and that the farm’s operations violate her privacy.

Meanwhile, the town decided that the nonprofit was operating as a business and therefore needed a permit to reflect that. The farm received a permit last September.

Now, the state’s Department of Public Safety is looking into a complaint that the farm is not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mendoza said she did not file the complaint but does believe there are violations. “I don’t think it’s right that a facility that’s not ADA compliant should be collecting thousands of dollars from the Mass health system,” she said.

James Vogel, however, said, “With the numerous contracts we have with the Commonwealth and beyond we have always been identified as ADA compliant.”

The Vogels’ attorney, George Boerger maintains that the complaint is “ongoing harassment” and is unfounded. Boerger and his clients responded to the state, sending photos that show the farm is handicapped accessible. The Department of Public Safety’s investigation is still open.

In regards to the open meeting violation, the state found the ZBA at fault because a site visit to the farm in Aug. 2016 was not pubically posted, there was a quorum present and the members asked questions. Chair Richard Cutler disagrees with the state’s assessment but that the board would comply.

“Usually when we do site visits it doesn’t count as a meeting,” Cutler said. “But this time because we had [a quorum] on site that was a violation.” The board will be required to write up the minutes from the visit within 30 days of the March 21 decision.

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