DRB closes hearing on falconry school

MANCHESTER - The Manchester Development Review Board closed a hearing Wednesday night on an application for a conditional use permit by Jeffrey Nyweide and Shelly Gibson that seeks to use what has been pasture land as the location for a new falconry school.

About 40 people packed the Kilburn Meeting Room at Town Hall for what was at times an emotionally charged meeting.

A decision on whether or not the permit will be granted will be made within 45 days.

At the meeting on Wednesday night, Rob Waite - who was the General Manager of the British School of Falconry prior to the school's closure last November - is looking to open Green Mountain Falconry School on land owned by Nyweide and Gibson located at 527 Benson Road, which is located south of Exit 4 off Route 7 and is in close proximity to East Manchester Road.

In the presentation of the project to the DRB, Waite said that the school was "low impact and environmentally friendly."

The birds would be housed at Waite's home overnight and brought to the school during the day. The L shaped structure that was included on the design plans to the DRB is there to protect the birds from wind and rain among other things.

Lessons would be by appointment, Waite said, with an average of two people per lesson. However, he acknowledged that there may be times where there is a slightly larger group, but said that there would probably not be more than four people in group and that they likely would arrive in one vehicle.

Waite also indicated that there would not be an overabundance of lessons given on any given day.

"I'm shooting for four lessons a day," he said. "I will have a team of five birds that I'll be giving lessons with and each bird is actually restricted as to how many times it can go in a day."

The school - which would be open seasonally from May until October - would be open seven days a week during the day and Nyweide said that they anticipated that traffic would be heavier on the weekends.

While Waite is planning to conduct four lessons a day, he acknowledged at the meeting that it could potentially be more than that.

That drew a comment from Brian Benson who lives on Benson Road.

"I bet it would be too. I bet it would be a lot more. I'll bet there will be a lot of stuff on those weekends because that's when you're marketing it through the Equinox," said Brian Benson who lives on Benson Road. "I work all week long. I don't want to sit on my porch or be out mowing my lawn covered with dust while these people blow up and down the road."

Increased traffic on the road as a result of the lessons was an issue also raised by Brian Benson's wife Susan.

However Ross Birns and his wife Teresa - who used to live on the road and operated FollenderWerks out of their home - did not feel that the school would result in an overabundance of traffic.

"Ross and I owned the home that is closest to Jeff and Shelly's farm and for many years we had a home based business in our home. The UPS man came everyday with his big truck; customers came there," said Teresa Birns. "The traffic of this (the falconry school) is maybe less than what we had for our home based business."

Another issue that was raised concerning traffic was that motorists end up traveling Benson Road frequently in search of Lye Brook Falls as the road leading to the swimming hole is not clearly marked.

"Having lived on that road for a number of years I understand the concern when on many occasions people get lost looking for the Lye Brook entrance and they come up the road and people come up the road jogging and people come up the road walking their dogs and all sorts of things. So, there is some traffic on there," said Ross Birns. "And part of the reason that people come up that road looking for Lye Brook is because it really isn't clearly marked."

Birns questioned whether the town would be willing to put better signage on the road indicating the way to Lye Brook, which would lessen the impact of traffic on Benson Road. Susan Benson said that she had talked to the National Forest Service about the possibility of putting up better signage and that they were considering taking that action.

Susan Benson raised a concern that in addition to the increased traffic resulting from the lessons, there would also be traffic due to service trucks going up to the site. However, Waite said that the Dorr company would be the only "service" vehicle that would visit the site once a week to clean the porta potties.

In response to a query from a member of the crowd about additional help, Waite said that his wife would be be helping him at the school and that they would typically be traveling in the same vehicle.

Speeding on the road was also a concern that was raised.

"I'm concerned about the traffic that goes up through there. They speed. They don't pay attention to the traffic signs or anything," said Donna Benson who lives close to Benson Road. "I have grandchildren that come to my house and they go, they ride a four wheeler around the Dorr yard, but if there's traffic going both ways they can lose control. People do speed on that road and there's no cops that come up and take care of it."

Travis Buttle, the game warden for Shaftsbury in the Southern District gave the indication that the creation of the falconry school in that location may not necessarily result in and increase of speeding motorists.

"Three days ago when I first went to the site and then came up tonight to look at it again, it's a normal class three town road, what I would consider a class three town road," said Buttle. "I'm not sure exactly how Manchester classifies it, but it's a fairly narrow dirt road that if people are traveling at reasonable speeds and doing what they're supposed to be doing, obeying the speed laws, it's not a problem just from my law enforcement perspective."

Ross Birns questioned Waite as to what, in his past experience with the British School of Falconry, his clientele was like. Waite said that those who had attended the British School of Falconry in the past were respectful of the environment and the surroundings.

Another concern raised by John Benson was that the proposed location was not zoned for a school, but rather for rural and residential.

"It's [being considered for] conditional use approval, which is what we're doing, for outdoor recreational pursuits in the zoning ordinance." said zoning adminstrator Allison Hopkins.

Susan and Brian Benson also took issue with the Green Mountain Falconry School being a school.

"You're marketing it through the Equinox. It's a business," said Brian Benson. "We can argue whatever we want it's still a business they're putting in a residential area. They're marketing it through the Equinox Resort It's going to be concentrated on the weekends."

While several issues were raised, Susan Benson said it was not the project per se that they objected to.

"It's not the birds," said Susan Benson. "It's a business on a dirt road that's not a double line. It's just, that's not where it belongs. It needs to find a home, just not there. Pave the road, widen it, and make it safe and then it won't be an issue, but it's a dirt road. The culverts are terrible. It washed out over the winter as it was melting. It just doesn't belong there."


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