DORSET >> The town's Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved a permit application for a 2,000 square-foot "event barn" at the Barrows House, an inn located on Route 30 near the center of Dorset village.
The approval came with certain conditions. Among them were injunctions against exceeding noise levels allowed by the village's ordinances, ensuring adequate water supplies in the event of a fire, and managing traffic and parking when the event barn is in use.
Steven Bryant, the managing partner of the Barrows House, characterized the final decision as a "win-win."
"This is a win for Dorset Village community," he stated in an email to The Journal. "Having a vibrant Barrows House vs. one in bankruptcy and going into abandonment a couple of years ago, makes the whole community stronger and more sustainable, supports real-estate valuations in the village, provides employment and increases the Dorset tax base. The small Event Barn with a design that is in keeping with the historic village (approved by the Dorset Design Review Board) will reduce noise and improve the quality of the experience vs. an event being held in a tent."
While the event barn project has now secured its local permits, it will still have to pass muster with the District No. 8 Act 250 Commission before construction can begin.
The project has stirred controversy within Dorset ever since it was first introduced more than two years ago. Originally designed as a larger 4,700 square-foot structure, it was scaled back to 2,000 sqaure-feet to fit under local ordinances controlling the size of new buildings being constructed.
On Dec. 14 of last year, more than 50 area residents attended a hearing held by the zoning board over the application, which had received initial approval from the town's Planning Commission and Design Review Board. But two neighboring property owners appealed the decision, triggering the public hearing on whether the proposed event barn was a "mixed use" structure which required a conditional permit.
The board met again later that week, on Dec. 17, and announced it had reached a unanimous decision to approve the proposed use, but the precise conditions they were attaching were not available until last week, while the board developed the wording of the conditions. This was well within the 45 day period they had to work with before releasing the text of their decision.
Ensuring that allowable noise levels, mainly in the form of amplified music being played inside the 2,000 square-foot structure, were not exceeded during times when the facility was in use was one that the board gave careful consideration to, said Zoning Board Chairman John LaVecchia.
"While there were other things that people might object to, the noise was the biggest concern of the people who raised questions," he said, referring to the public hearing on Dec. 14. "The applicants said they would agree with what was in the noise survey."
A sound audit survey conducted to determine the likely noise levels found that those would be within the acceptable decibel levels, but the zoning board also directed that doors and windows of the event barn must be closed while amplified music is being played when the sound levels in the interior of the building exceed 75 decibels or more, that all amplified music must be played inside the structure, and that all music must cease by 11 p.m.
Tents or other temporary structures erected on a proposed 3,000 square foot patio extending from the event barn need to be dismantled within a reasonable time after an event has ended, according to the decision.
Concerns that the project might impact the town's municipal water supply were mitigated by a report from the Dorset and East Dorset fire departments, which stated they could provide adequate fire protection for it.
Weddings and other special events have been held on the Barrows House property since the 1960s, Bryant told the zoning board during its Dec. 14 hearing, and the new event barn will address several issues involved with their current arrangements. The barn will replace the temporary tents currently being used, which will dampen the noise levels. The building was also designed to fit in with the neighborhood and would be a visual improvement over the temporary tents.
By the time the zoning board reached its decision, there was unanimity among the seven members on the justification for approving it, with the conditions they established, LaVecchia said.
"Truly, the board was unanimous in all of its thoughts on the potential conditions," he said.