Vineyard special permit approved

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By Elaine Jones

The application for a special permit to modify the existing permit for Lost Acres Vineyard was approved by a unanimous vote at the May 4 Planning and Zoning Commission regular meeting. Compromises were reached as Commission members debated the requests of Vineyard owners Michelle Niedermeyer and Kevin Riggott and the concerns of adjacent property owners Carol Day and John Jenkins.

The most contentious concerns expressed at previous P&Z meetings included hours of operation, number of special events, noise and amplified music, outside lighting and street parking. Also alleged was the possible violation of zoning regulation.

Before conditions were approved, the Commission stated that since receiving a Certificate of Occupancy, the Lost Acres Vineyard has held events to promote the sale of wine and farm products and there has not been any violation of any zoning regulation. In addition, agricultural and accessory uses customarily incidental to agricultural use are permitted in residential zones. Finally, Section 8.15 of the zoning laws strongly encourages agricultural use, particularly farms which are widely exempt from land use restraints noted within the regulations.

The application to expand the hours of the farm store was approved as follows: open year round; open Monday through Sunday; open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The applicants offered proposed conditions to limit future activities and these were adopted and deemed appropriate for this vineyard.

The farm store will close to the general public no later than 7 p.m., except for special events, defined as any activity where the general public or a group of invitees are scheduled for a purpose in addition to the sale or promotion of wine or farm products. While the Commission anticipated that special events would be limited, the applicants identified a maximum of 60 events per year when more than 50 guests attend. Wine sales for on-premise consumption must cease by 9 p.m. and all vineyard guests must leave the wine barn by 10:30 p.m.

If amplified music is used it must not start before 10 a.m. and must cease by 9 p.m. Performances outside of the existing wine barn by musicians/bands/ DJs or others will be restricted to a maximum of six days per calendar year. In addition, the Granby zoning enforcement officer must be notified in writing or email prior to such performances. Performances occurring on the outside deck are included under this six-day restriction.

If a temporary outside tent or other such structure is used on the property, its use is limited to five building permits per year; no structure can remain on the property for more than four consecutive days, and any permit will be for a single event.

A sign that reads “Please Do Not Park on Lost Acre Road” shall be placed within 15 feet and north of SNET Pole # 370 and be no larger than four square feet.

No outside lighting structure is approved. Any future request for outside lighting will be considered upon the receipt of a specific proposal and proper application. All lighting, including temporary lighting, must conform to the zoning regulations.

The parking area shown on the revision to a site plan is only conceptual and an example of how cars may park on existing areas.

Nothing in this approval is intended to limit the Granby zoning enforcement officer from taking any action that exceeds that which is customary and incidental to the agricultural use in accordance with the zoning regulations.

Upon any future request of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the ZEO will review the record and prepare and submit a report on the vineyard. The report may contain the number, origin and nature of complaints, compliments, issues, and concerns regarding the Lost Acres Vineyard.

The Commission heard a presentation from Ellen Nichols of 29 Byron Drive, who spoke to the Commission about creating an ordinance requiring a permit for cutting down trees. Nichols stated that many trees were being clear-cut down on private property as owners were installing pools or were unaware of environmental problems.  She felt that this was an important issue as it relates to the future economic and cultural value of the town. She asked, “Can we curb this trend in our neighborhoods?” While the Commission empathized with her, they stated property rights and the belief that no one in town would support establishing a permit application process for cutting trees on private property. They suggested that Nichols put together a proposal and organize a response to her concerns.

 At the April 28 meeting, Richard Lillis of 105 Bushy Hill Road made an application for a special permit for an accessory apartment. This was approved by the Commission. The lot contains .6 acres, the existing home is a ranch style with three bedrooms and two baths, and the one-car garage is on the north side of the property. The permit will modify the existing space into two units where each unit would have one bedroom and one bath. Lillis said he plans to build a small porch with an entrance door and extension of the sidewalk to the porch to facilitate access.

Granby’s building official has stated that the new apartment conforms to the building code and the requirements of the zoning regulations. The apartment can be eliminated and returned to single-family use.

At the May 12 meeting, the Planning & Zoning Commission accepted the report of the Center Zone Review Committee that was established to consider the impact of a zoning amendment, proposed by the owner of 261 Salmon Brook Street, to use the property as a restaurant. This amendment application was denied without prejudice by the Commission on February 13, 2015, and Commission members felt more discussion and more input from Granby residents was advisable. A volunteer group of Granby residents was assembled to study the proposal, and its merits and drawbacks. At the review committee’s April 15 meeting, the 18 members voted to support the adoption by P&Z with the following amendment: “The primary and most appropriate use of the existing homes within the Granby Center Historic Overlay District portion of the Center Zone is residential use.” The director of community development is encouraged to seek guidance from the Salmon Brook Historical Society on future applications that fall within the Historic Overlay District and may include suggestions of the society in any report submitted to the Commission on such applications.”

The regulation continues: “Due to the historic nature of the buildings and the desire to maintain the traditional quality of the existing landscape, any proposed re-use or renovation of buildings located within the Granby Center Overlay District shall be accomplished in a manner which preserves the historic integrity of the building facades and preserves the traditional design of the grounds, particularly the front facing the street.”

The majority of members favored increasing opportunities for new business within the Town Center, favoring the preservation of the facades of historic buildings. They also felt that expanding the potential use of historic buildings located within the Center would increase the possibility of future renovation and preservation. They felt the center needed positive change and they supported opportunities for new commercial development. They also expressed confidence that P&Z could and would make the proper decisions when reviewing future special permit applications within Granby Center.

Peggy Lareau, a member of the committee, expressed a minority view, stating that the regulation differed only slightly from the proposal previously rejected by P&Z. She stated her negative vote because the proposal too boldly removes the bar as to all three uses (retail, restaurant and commercial services) as to all six properties at issue, and contains no beefed-up regs that might help avoid undesirable versions of those uses. She suggested nine details she would want the Commission to apply. She ended her presentation with a hope to jump start discussion of expanded protections and finding a middle ground to permit more uses.

Director of Community Development Fran Armentano indicated he would present a PowerPoint review to both groups to create a better understanding of the proposals as they affect the Center  Common Zone, and the Center Commercial Zone and the Granby Center Historic Overlay District.