nov-30-front-event-barn-photo-01

An old barn at 783 Mt. Philo Road is to be renovated into a wedding/event venue. Courtesy photo

Alexandra Lazar | Contributor

In mid-October, an application was filed to turn the old barn at 783 Mt. Philo Road into a wedding/event venue. This event barn would host up to 60 events a year—with two per week from May to October—each attended by up to 150 people. Although the barn is in a rural area, a loophole allows it to be rezoned for commercial use in order to preserve it.

When the project was first presented to the Zoning Board, neighbors were unaware of the plan. But after an anonymous good Samaritan informed them, the neighborhood banded together to intervene, unanimously agreeing that the event barn poses a threat to their way of life. Neighbors have attended meetings and sent letters to the Zoning Board, the Planning Commission and the Selectboard. A petition is being circulated, garnering 67 signatures within its first two days.

These neighbors are not adverse to the barn’s preservation and potential usage, nor do they harbor any personal resentment toward the owner, the project or the concept of development. Instead, they are concerned that this specific use—a busy, commercial entity that would inevitably result in increased noise, light and traffic, among other issues—would create significant problems for them and their quiet, rural lifestyles. Clark Hinsdale points out that the “undue adverse impacts” of the event barn include residential, agricultural and traffic impact, and that there are many other “adaptive reuses of this property that could [better] fit into the character of the area and provide new life for this barn.”

The event barn’s parking lot would hold 160 vehicles, although the owner does not expect more than 80 vehicles per event. The resulting increase in traffic on Mt. Philo Road is problematic for many who live in the area. As Margaret Foster points out, party attendees are not the only people who will arrive: there will also be “Health Department inspections, trash storage and removal, food and beverage delivery by trucks, increased traffic and parking for food preparers, decorators, parking attendants, photographers, [and] musicians.” Not only would neighbors have to endure additional light from headlights, increased traffic noises and congested roads, but there are also pressing concerns about safety. As Jennifer Whalen said, “This stretch of road has already been identified as being one of the area’s most dangerous due to the fast average rate of speed by motorists, combined with the fact that there is no shoulder and the road is heavily utilized for recreation by pedestrians and bicyclists.” It seems fair to assume that the increase in traffic—particularly when attendees are unfamiliar with the area and may have imbibed alcohol at the events—might be accompanied by an increase in accidents.

Neighbors have expressed concerns about a variety of other issues related to the event barn. Many are concerned especially about light pollution. The lights from the event barn—the first commercial or industrial lights in the neighborhood—would impair people’s ability to see the stars and spoil the peaceful darkness of the night. Others are troubled about increased litter and pollution—especially run-off from the parking lot that might penetrate the soil, damaging farmland and the groundwater that feeds many residents’ wells. The fact that increased water consumption by the event barn could strain the aquifer that supplies these wells is also problematic.

Many neighbors are also worried about drops in housing values. Indeed, Zeke Davisson and Kelly Brush Davisson—who are currently building a house in the area—admit that the event barn “would have diminished [their] opinion of [the] solitude [of the area] and . . . made this neighborhood less desirable.” In addition, a wedding venue in this location seems unnecessary: there are multiple similar venues in the region, with the newest one located just one mile away.

While the event barn would create issues for all neighbors in the vicinity, it would be especially problematic for those who live immediately next to it. Cedar Springs Farm—a facility that trains, breeds, boards, and shows Morgan horses—directly abuts the property. Owner Bonnie Sogoloff worries about the well-being of her “expensive and sensitive show horses,” noting that “their health and welfare will be certainly compromised by the noise and disruption.” Lilah Sunderland and Chance Cardamone-Knewstub live 200 feet away from the event barn. During the sound test, they “were startled by the volume and the vibrations of the bass felt throughout their house.” They worry that the late-night sounds of partying—even if events end by 9:30, as is mentioned in the application—will keep their children awake past their bedtimes. They moved away from Burlington in 2014, seeking “a quieter and more peaceful environment for their family” and fear that the event barn would compel them to move once again.

These reasons have motivated many locals to oppose the event barn in order to protect the undisturbed, rural nature of the neighborhood that they love. To voice your opinion email a letter to Town Administrator Dean Bloch. And if you have additional questions about this effort, email Michael Lazar at michaellazar@myfairpoint.net.

If you want to sign the petition, you can read the letter here and go to the Charlotte Town Office to add your signature at the Town Clerk’s counter. To voice your opinion further, please email a letter to Dean Block, the Town Administrator. And if you have additional questions about this effort, email Michael Lazar at michaellazar@myfairpoint.net.