EATON – At its September 23 meeting, the Zoning Board of Adjustment denied a special exception to owners of the Crystal Lake Inn in Eaton, who were looking to turn a barn near their home into a wedding venue.
Inn owners Robert Barker and Timothy Ostendorf are looking to turn an old barn on their 64-acre property into a wedding reception venue.
After being turned down last year, they sued the zoning board.
Carroll County Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius ordered the ZBA to rehear the proposal. This was again denied by the ZBA last Thursday.
Barker and Ostendorf were represented by Jeremy Eggleton from Orr & Reno in Concord, while the city was represented by Diane Gorrow from Soule, Leslie, Kidder, Sayward & Loughman, PLLC in Salem.
âWe are regrouping with our lawyer, Jeremy Eggleton, to see what our next steps are, although we have a few options to potentially pursue our plan,â said Ostendorf, who added that they were eager to start a fruit farm because they have 3 acres of wild blueberries, eight apple trees, four pear trees and a fairly large Concord grape arbor.
He also provided a general comment on his reaction to the ZBA.
“It’s a hell of a slap in the face from the town of Eaton after 20 years. But apparently everyone is content with their privileged little white bubble,” Ostendorf.
“It’s so sad to discover that what we thought was a progressive and united city, is just another community of people mostly retired and narrow-minded,” he added.
Barker and Ostendorf’s home is on Cold Brook Road in Freedom and their barn is across the road just above the town limit of Eaton, where the dirt road is known as the name of Towle Hill Road.
On March 2, 2020, the zoning board denied the innkeepers’ petition for a new hearing despite the couple doing new noise and traffic studies to address issues raised in January 2020.
The zoning board argued that the innkeepers should have dealt with traffic and noise in January and that the board had made no mistakes.
But Ignatius said the couple should be able to present their sound and traffic data and ordered a rehearing.
The hearing lasted over four hours on September 20. Experts said the effect of the wedding venue on the road and the neighborhood would be negligible. However, residents feared that holding events on site could lead to more car accidents, dust and noise.
On September 20 and 23 were present ZBA President Steve Larson, Vice President Carol Mayhofer, Members Megan Hoffer and Robert Mavesta, and Alternate Pamela Burns.
Residents’ concerns about wedding guests driving drunk and rowdy behavior seemed to resonate with Mayhofer.
“(There is) not only a small chance of drunkenness problems, but a very likely chance of having problems with drunks – not just drunks on the road, leaving the place, but problems that might arise there down when they try to say ‘OK you have to close at 10 am,’ Mayhofer said.
“So it really opened my eyes as a potential for what is going to happen in this very quiet neighborhood where nothing is happening after 9pm and here you have the potential for huge huge problems,” he said. she declared.
Hoffer noted that if there was an emergency on the road, the problem would also be poor cell phone reception and lack of police presence. Eaton relies on the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office for police coverage.
Other concerns raised by the board included the candidates’ ability to mask commercial activity on the site. The couple said they would hide the porta-pots behind the barn, that there would be no tents outside, no music or food service outside. Instead, the precooked foods would be brought to the barn by the caterers or the seekers themselves. The music would be inside the barn.
âIt’s not like we’re going to have a bus outside idling to fuel the rock band inside,â Orr & Reno’s Jeremy Eggleton told Concord.
Larson asked how candidates could have a wedding there without any “external evidence” except for a sign, as the ordinance appears to require.
Eggleton urged the council not to read the ordinance too narrowly.
âUnless the city is prepared to shut down all the businesses, all the contractors and plumbers, who park their stuff in their backyards, then I think you have to match this (requirement) to the reality of the situation,â he said. said Eggleton.
To qualify for a special exception, applicants had to meet the following criteria.
A. A home business must be carried on by the residents of the premises. A home-based business may have employees who do not live on the premises.
B. It must be clearly secondary to the use of the premises for residential purposes and will not alter the character of the neighborhood or reduce the value of any surrounding property.
C. It must not give rise to any external evidence of the company, except for an authorized sign and must not have a detrimental effect on the environment or surrounding properties due to noise, odors, smoke, dust, lights, soil, water or air. pollution, excessive increase in traffic or parking needs, or due to other nuisances.
D. There shall be no exterior display of goods, and no exterior storage of materials or equipment unless protected from surrounding roads and properties by natural or structural means to an extent and in a manner that may be specifically required and approved by the Adjustment Council.
E. The residence or accessory buildings must not have any storefronts or other features or characteristics normally associated with commercial use.
F. There will be no change in the exterior appearance of the residence or other structures on the property as a result of use, unless specifically approved or required by the Adjustment Council.
For an hour on September 23, the ZBA discussed each of the criteria. The board of directors held only one vote at the end of the discussion and, by show of hands, unanimously rejected the special exception.