Barrow's House barn on hold

DORSET - For the time being, the Barrow's House Inn event barn will not be built.

The application was pulled from consideration during Tuesday night's planning commission meeting. The decision came after the planning commission decided to look over and consider changing the 2,000 square foot maximum of a building in the commercial district. The Barrow's House plan for the event barn is 4,200 square feet, more than double the size of what is currently allowed without a variance.

Chris Brooks, the chairman of the Dorset select board, said the board had asked the planning commission to review this and other items in 2012, but possibly changing the square footage allowed in this district was a controversial issue and was going to be held until a build-out study currently underway is completed.

A presentation of the study was made at the meeting.

"It's an issue that's not going away. Obviously the white elephant in the room is the Barrow's House Property, it's just another one. . . other things that have come up. . . redefining this might help," Brooks said.

Dorset's business is real estate, he said, and the ebb and flow of people moving in and out should be a consideration in the planning commission's decision.

"[People come to Dorset] they like the community, they like what they find here. . . then they buy [a house or property]. . . they typically rebuild or re-work the place. . . the place has to be maintained. . . then after 7 to 10 years, things change in their lives and they decide to sell," he said. "If that's our industry, it's nice to keep the town of Dorset new and fresh for people. . . it's not that we have to rebuild Dorset, just maybe we want to polish the brass if you will." Brooks said.

Changing this 2,000 square foot restriction could help attract new owners or projects similar to the Barrow's House to the area. However, there are unintended consequences like traffic, parking, noise, water and waste issues that come with larger spaces being built.

"Then you find a liquor super store wanting to come in," Brooks said. "Is that what we want in the town of Dorset? I don't think so."

This is a conversation Brooks said he just wants to start. It will be up to the planning commission to make a change, or even decide not to change anything right now.

Bill Breed, chair of the planning commission said this discussion will have to keep "village scale" in mind.

"I think the driver here, of limiting to 2,000 square feet, it's a way of being able to deal with allowing smaller scale development to occur and preventing less structured discussions of what is village scale," Breed said. "When you get back to the town plan, there's lots of discussion of keeping things to village scale. There was an incident in town a number of years ago, where something was going to be village scale development in an area and it became a large scale garage."

After the discussion about the 2,000 square foot limit the development review board presented a report on their site visit and meeting on the Barrow's House event building. Bob Escher said the plan for the barn involves turning it 90 degrees and pushing it further back on the property towards the current location of a gazebo. There was a special meeting after their site visit on January 15 to help move the process forward.

"It was at that time that Tyler [Yandow, the Dorset zoning administrator] brought up the issue of the building footprint and we discussed that for a few moments, but we said no, let's keep going since we're all here," he said.

The development review board had three issues with the barn as it was first presented: the location, the scale and design. The new plan, with the barn moved, dissolved the issue of the location, Breed said.

After learning more about the roof slope and the mass of the building, he said the issue of scale will be resolved. The design issues are also being worked out to the satisfaction of the DRB.

"Overall, we felt it was moving forward the way it should," he said. "And we are ready to see the next round of plans."

Ed Tannenhouse, representing the abutting property owners said he and the owners of the Barrow's House had a productive conversation about some of the concerns the adjacent property owners have. These included no parking signs being placed on Barrow's House Lane, ensuring any garbage would be cleaned up by Barrow's House employees on private property and how to deal with noise level.

At the end of the public hearing, the application for the Barrow's House was pulled until the conclusion of the discussion about the 2,000 square foot limit.


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