Falconry School approved

MANCHESTER - The application for a new falconry school to be located on Benson Road has been approved by the Manchester Development Review Board.

The decision was issued Monday, May 12, once the required number of signatures needed for approval - four - were obtained.

Jeffrey Nyweide and Shelly Gibson applied for the permit and the Green Mountain Falconry School itself will be run by Rob Waite who was the General Manager of the British School of Falconry that was located at the Hildene Meadowlands before it closed last November.

In what was at times an emotionally charged DRB meeting last month, residents of Benson Road - many of whom were from the same family - expressed concerns that centered mainly around traffic impacts and the condition of the road. However, the DRB found "no cause to require a traffic impact analysis," and determined the project would not cause "unreasonable congestion or unsafe conditions," according to the Find ings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

The DRB found the criteria had been met and issued the conditional use permit. However, the permit must be renewed every year with the town's zoning administrator.

One stipulation included in the permit requires Nyweide and Gibson to pay a sum not to exceed $500, which would supplement the costs associated with additional calcium chloride treatments of the road to reduce dust.

The deadline to file an appeal of the decision is June 12. However, as of press time on Wednesday an appeal had not been filed, according to the Environmental Court. The possibility of an appeal being filed is one that Waite expressed concern over during a telephone interview on Monday.

"There is of course concern that there will be an appeal. I'm not quite sure what form that would take if there is one, but we'll deal with it if and when it comes up," he said.

How that would impact the project is at this point unclear. Waite said they are in the process of applying for their Act 250 permit - an aspect that is being handled by Nyweide - and would like to begin construction of the 160 square foot reception shed and an 888 square foot weathering building needed for the school to operate as soon as possible.

"I know that [there's] a lot of people wanting to come do the lessons so the sooner we get it all done the better," said Waite.

The school will be open seasonally from May to October and operating hours will depend on the light and weather conditions, according to the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

When the school would be able to come online due to the Act 250 permit still required and the necessary construction is still a question mark, but Waite hopes it will open before the end of the season.

"I'm really hoping to get it actually operating this year at some point," said Waite. "We're at the start of our typical season. Looking at the history of the British School of Falconry, May was a gradual increase. June continued that way and by the time we got to July it was busy. So, we've got a lot of months ahead of us still where there is potentially a lot of people that would be wanting to come do it."

Following the closing of the British School of Falconry - which was founded by Emma and Steve Ford - last November, Waite said a number of people expressed interest when they heard he might be opening a school and he now has a list of people potentially interested in lessons. The British School of Falconry - which had existed in Manchester for 18 years - was a feature offered to guests staying at the Equinox Resort & Spa and the Green Mountain Falconry School will be marketed through the hotel when it is operational.

"I'm going to be getting a lot of guests hopefully that will be staying at the Equinox Resort and I know that the concierge there [has] a lot of interest in getting [the school] to operate," Waite said.

A typical lesson includes two people and a handler, with a larger family being the biggest group.

The frequency in which lessons will take place is not expected to be exorbitant either - which was a concern expressed at the DRB hearing last month.

"Lessons are conducted one at a time and further limited as birds do not fly at the same time nor can they repeatedly be used throughout the day," according to the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

To deter drop-ins and onlookers, the site's location will not be published on the businesses website, according to the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.


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