The proposed structure was discussed at length during the Planning Commission's meeting Tuesday, Jan. 6. Tyler Yandow, the zoning administrator, said in an interview that the meeting was well attended.
The design review board, a subcommittee of the planning commission, made a report to the committee with the minutes from their last meeting. On Dec. 19, 2013, a formal meeting was held to discuss the proposed project. There had been previous meetings, on Nov. 14 and Dec. 3, to discuss the project with Steven Bryant, owner of the Barrow's House, and Ramsay Gourd, the architect of the project. Lynn Bowden, a member of Dorset's design review board, was in attendance but recused herself from the vote about the event barn, because she is an abutting property owner.
According to the DRB minutes from the Dec. 19 meeting, the board will be guided by whether the design of the proposed structure is compatible with the surrounding of the historic district and if the build of the structure is consistent with lot size and neighbors. Other considerations will include whether the structure designed and placed so as to not adversely affect the historic district and accessory structures and if the outbuildings are compatible with surroundings and located so they do not detract from the character of the district.
With this in mind, the DRB made their recommendations to the planning commission. "Locating the barn in the south meadow," according to the meeting minutes, "would detract from the character of the historic structure of the Barrow's House by removing the open meadow vista of the Inn that has welcomed visitors to Dorset for years."
DRB meeting minutes also said that that the location of the event barn does not "conform to the patterns of buildings of setbacks, spacing and orientation characteristics of the specific historic site and/or similar historic setbacks." According to minutes, a carriage or livery house would typically be located at the back of the property. The location of the barn would also cause the property to lose the "significant site feature" of the meadow, which was referenced in the minutes "as a traditional gathering space and vista of the property."
Finally, the location of the barn in the south meadow "will not be consistent with the visual and spatial character of the historic setting because it would change the hierarchy of the size and scale of the main historic building's relationship with the surrounding smaller outbuildings.
The DRB voted unanimously at their Dec. 19, meeting to not approve the Barrow's House proposal.
On Tuesday, Jan. 6, the planning commission considered the decision of the DRB. They were also presented a memo from abutting property owners who presented their own concerns about the proposed event space.
"The residential character of this area needs to be maintained and protected from serious, unwanted intrusions," the memo reads. "The unrestricted use of a high capacity event barn will open up a host of problems, both short term and long term, for those of us who live nearby and ultimately to the community."
Other concerns laid out in the memo include fire safety and if a plan is in place in the event of a fire in the event barn, noise and how the noise ordinance will be enforced, as well as parking, especially along Barrows Heights Lane.
Steven Bryant, owner of the Barrow's House, said in an interview Wednesday, following the meeting, that he feels good about the project and he feels cautiously optimistic about it's approval. He said, in response to the fire concern, that the event barn will be equipped with a sprinkler system. Also, in response to the potential for parking issues, he said while they have not asked for additional parking spaces, they do not believe it will become an issue. In case there is a need for more parking, Bryant said spaces would be added.
"[The event barn will] make Dorset more economically viable," he said. "This effort will bring in a higher end clientele and will benefit the local economy."
The planning commission decided to keep the public hearing open and will conduct a site visit to the proposed location at the Barrow's House on Tuesday Jan. 16 at 8 a.m. The hearing will continue to the Feb. 4 planning commission meeting.