, Derry, New Hampshire

Life & Times

March 6, 2014

Derry resident seeks town advice on retreat

DERRY — A longtime resident hopes to offer his family farm as a spiritual retreat, but town zoning officials want more information before giving their permission.

Paul Doolittle wants to bring a spiritual haven to his property at 33 Old Chester Road. He appeared before the Zoning Board last month, requesting an appeal of an administrative decision by Bob Mackey after the code enforcement officer determined Doolittle’s Sun Point Farm Sanctuary didn’t meet the zoning definition of a “church” in that part of town.

That’s why officials asked Doolittle for more information before making a ruling.

Mackey said he wasn’t sure how Doolittle’s plan fit in with the town’s church definition, so he encouraged Doolittle to bring the appeal forward for more discussion.

Doolittle is a lifetime Unitarian Universalist and has used his family property for spiritual retreats for decades.

“A group of people wanted to do yoga, meditate and farm organically,” Doolittle said.

When his parents moved to the property in the 1980s, Doolittle said he toned down his spiritual efforts. After his parents both died, he decided it was time to revisit his vision.

“The Sun Point Farm came back center stage in my mind as more of a building infrastructure on the farm, a formal retreat center,” he said.

Doolittle said he wants to help people come together, foster a love of the land and be spiritual while doing it.

His plan includes a cluster of buildings on the property, with primitive cabins in the wooded areas of the land.

Another nine acres would be set aside for organic farming.

Doolittle said his faith has always been one of protecting and appreciating his land and natural resources.

But it’s what constitutes a “church” in the eyes of town zoning officials that is still up in the air.

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