Alchemy Farm Solar

A solar array sits on top of a structure at Alchemy Farm.

Joseph Hackler and Karen Schwalbe, owners of a pole barn structure set for demolition, filed suit against the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals on October 2.

In the complaint, filed in Barnstable Superior Court, the owners allege the zoning board of appeals should not have upheld building commissioner Rod Palmer’s demolition order.

The structure sits on a quarter-acre lot within the Alchemy Farms Neighborhood, a planned residential development. Mr. Hackler obtained permits to build the pole barn in 2016. It is a set of eight poles supporting a sheet roof covered in solar panels.

Earlier this year, after multiple complaints from neighbors about the look of the structure, the building commissioner conducted a site visit. Mr. Palmer determined the site was not being used for agricultural purposes, as the original building permit had specified. He ordered the structure removed.

Upon appeal of the order, the zoning board of appeals heard from neighbors, the building commissioner and Mr. Hackler. The board opened the hearing on May 2. Three months later, on August 22, it voted to uphold the building commissioner’s determination that the structure should be demolished. A formal copy of the decision was signed and filed with the town clerk September 18.

The Superior Court complaint refers to the zoning board of appeals’ decision as “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.”

The board lacked jurisdiction, according to the complaint, because an appeal was not filed within 30 days of a permit being issued for construction of the pole barn in 2016.

“The Board impermissibly upheld the building inspector’ s removal order, of a structure that complies in all respects with an approved permit to house farming equipment and machinery, for use as a workshop and for maintenance of agricultural equipment,” the complaint states.

In the board’s findings, members noted that there was no evidence the barn was being used for agricultural purposes as defined under Falmouth’s bylaws.

Mr. Hackler could not be reached for comment.

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