Banquet hall, winery seeks DRB approval

Milton Farms LLC owner Shaun Brooks and civil engineer Paul O’Leary displayed design concepts of the banquet hall they are seeking approval for at last Thursday’s DRB meeting. (Renderings by Scott + Partners)

Milton’s Development Review Board examined a conditional use permit and site plan application for a proposed banquet hall and winery on Duffy Road at its meeting last Thursday.

The applicants – Shaun Brooks, owner of Milton Farm LLC, and consulting engineer Paul O’Leary of Burke Civil Associates – came before the board to review Brooks’ request to construct a two-story barn on the approximately 550-acre lot located at 124 and 162 Duffy Rd. to be used for wine tastings and production, weddings and other events, as well as a potential sugaring operation.

Right now, the property is already in agricultural use, O’Leary said. Brooks currently has cattle and grows organic corn on the land.

Brooks and O’Leary began by reviewing the site plan, which shows the proposed barn would be set back about 225 feet from Duffy Road and include two access points. It’s proposed to be built using material from an 1800s-era barn, and would include a small structure on the right side for a kitchen area, a silo on the left side, a cupola on the roof and a deck on the back.

“We’re very excited about it. Scott + Partners is the architect that did the barn, and we’re happy with the way the barn turned out,” O’Leary said at the meeting.

As part of the application, the duo requested the board approve a parking area with 33 spaces and a grassy overflow area to accommodate an extra 100 cars. They are also proposing onsite wastewater and a septic design to meet the needs of up to 300 people.

O’Leary noted that because the land is agricultural, includes more than 10 acres and includes a commercial use, Brooks will also have to secure an Act 250 permit before moving ahead with the project.

Although he won’t need a state wastewater permit because he has less than a half-acre of impervious surface, Brooks will also need to submit wastewater plans to the Act 250 board, O’Leary said.

On site plans, O’Leary raised concerns about the 38-ft. cupola being too tall to comply with the 35-ft. maximum allowed by town height regulations, but said in his and Brooks’ view, the barn was for agricultural use and therefore isn’t required to meet those standards.

Town planner Jeff Castle said that although he didn’t agree the barn should be exempt because it would have some commercial use, there is a provision that would allow the board to authorize ornamental structures, such as cupolas, taller than 35 feet.

DRB chairman Bruce Jenkins asked Brooks if he has any plans to incorporate solar energy. Board member Henry Bonges asked if they are building to historic preservation guidelines. Brooks said no to both.

O’Leary noted Brooks could build the barn as shown without any permits from the town or Act 250, since agricultural use makes it exempt.

“But then if he went to get an event permit, he would stand the chance of getting denied at the town and the state level. Certainly, that’s not a gamble we want to take. The events are part of making the agricultural feasible on the site, and that’s why we’re here today,” he said.

Member Bob Brisson asked Brooks to clarify how the barn would be considered “75 percent agricultural use,” as they had asserted earlier in the meeting.

Brooks described the wine storage and tasting, which falls under agricultural use, and said that the only a portion of the second floor would be used for banquets, which triggers the need for a permit.

Discussion also included how events would be managed should the permit be approved. The duo requested they be allowed to hold no more than 52 events at the facility in a one-year period.

“The events will vary from small, 20-to-50 people events for wine tasting, up to as large as a 300-person wedding. We’d also be open to anniversaries, retirement and reunions,” O’Leary said.

Duffy Rd. resident Nancy Hawley asked Jenkins if 52 events would be a “hard limit” on the number of events.

After telling her the board hadn’t made that decision yet, Hawley urged him to consider the potential for increased traffic on Duffy and the impact it could have on residents.

Toward the end of the meeting, the board and discussed various concerns regarding the driveway, including the potential for event-goers to get their vehicles stuck in the overflow lot during mud season, causing gravel to get dragged onto Duffy Road.

One resident, who did not state his name at the meeting, expressed his concerned about the aesthetics of a large gravel parking lot or driveway.

“I don’t want to see it come to parking lot as you enter the facility because that takes away from the appearance on Duffy Road,” he said.

Another Duffy Road resident, who said his house is closer to the street than any other residence, also expressed concern over the potential for increased traffic.

“Shaun has done a fantastic job. He has cleaned it all up and what he’s done on the property is really nice,” he added.

If approved, the facility would be open Sunday through Thursday until 10 p.m., with music until 8 p.m. on those days. On Fridays and Saturdays, they requested to be open until midnight with music stopping at 11 p.m.

Board alternate Jessica Groeling asked about noise ordinances, and Bonges said that there isn’t one, adding it does make a big difference whether the band plays outside or inside; O’Leary expected the latter scenario most often.

The meeting concluded with the board planning a site visit for July 13, the same day it is scheduled to issue a decision on the project.

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