The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 11, 2010

Selectmen okay Ferns’ seating in split decision

The Carlisle Board of Selectmen voted to permit Ferns to provide indoor seating to patrons, pending the Carlisle Board of Health (BOH) approval under the existing site plan, at the June 8 meeting in a 3-2 vote. The BOH agreed to the indoor seating later that evening. Selectmen Doug Stevenson, Bill Tice, and Peter Scavongelli voted in favor while Chair John Williams and John Gorecki opposed the decision. The indoor space does not permit patrons to bring in alcoholic beverages, an idea only in the discussion stage at present and requiring documentation and public review in the future.

“The existing site plan does not talk about eat-in facilities,” said Williams. He said while he did not oppose indoor seating and understood that Ferns proprietor Larry Bearfield always intended to offer it to customers, the approved site plan dating back to September 23, 2008 did not include this provision. Bearfield explained that his original plan presented in August, 2008, had included 19 indoor seats, and that the parking and safety review of the plan was conducted with consideration of this amount of traffic. The plan approved by the Selectmen in September contained a condition that the applicant would need to satisfy public water supply and public restroom requirements for the BOH prior to realization of the eat-in space. Bearfield has since obtained such approvals.

“I feel this is an intensification of use in a non-residential building,” said Michael Epstein, vice-chair of the Planning Board. He added that the other town committees should have the opportunity to “weigh in” and that with the new abbreviated Planning Board process “within 35 days we should be able to reach a decision.”

“New regulations should not be brought in on an old decision,” disagreed Carlisle Building Inspector John Luther. He added that the seating was once in the plan, and that he had understood that once the BOH conditions were met, the Selectmen would allow the eat-in space. He said that this opinion was shared by BOH Chair Jeff Brem and Bearfield. “I didn’t hear that argument about stretch code,” quipped Williams. He quickly added, “I’m not trying to be difficult; I just want to make sure that we just do this right.”

Outlining the options

Stevenson noted that the town bylaws in fact reserved the right for the Selectmen to make reasonable amendments to a plan without requiring an entirely new review process. “Indoor seating is not a more intensified use as there’s already plenty of outdoor seating,” pointed out Stevenson. The Selectmen summarized the four options available to the board which included:

• Voting on the amendment that evening contingent upon BOH decision;

• Postponing the decision until the next meeting on June 22 after receiving BOH input;

• Requiring further site plan review by other town boards;

• Requiring an entirely new review.

While Williams did not feel an entire site review plan was necessary, he proposed an “expeditous review” of the amended information. Nonetheless, he felt that the Selectmen must follow a process and that included additional consideration and notification to the public of the modification. Gorecki concurred that he would like to hear other views before approving the change. Tice believed waiting two weeks for the next meeting would allow sufficient time for that input.

Nonetheless, Scavongelli asked the group to vote on the amendment that evening. Stevenson commented that this was the most expeditious and least onerous on the applicant. Although he noted that he did not want an appeal of the decision, Stevenson acknowledged that a process did exist to overturn any “bad decision” that the Selectmen might make. He then proceeded to move that the existing site plan shall include inside seating, pending BOH acceptance. After the 3-2 decision, the Bearfield contingent hastily left the room to join the BOH board meeting. ∆

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