Shelburne Green café doesn’t fit zoning regs


Efforts to align the successful Fiddlehead Brewery operation at Shelburne Green within the boundaries of town zoning laws continue to lurch through the Shelburne permitting process.

At its July 8 meeting, the Shelburne Development Review Board spent over an hour in discussions with representatives of the Shelburne Green commercial park and Fiddlehead as well as neighbors from the adjacent Gables condominiums.

Shelburne Green filed a request with the town in November 2018 to alter its existing commercial development permits to allow several of the brewery’s buildings to be connected. It also would like to add a café to the development near the brewery that would serve the public into the evening and could host special events such as concerts.

Ravi Venkataraman, staff coordinator for the board, recommended approving the request to combine three existing brewery buildings into one with a total footprint of about 40,000 square feet to accommodate the brewery’s growth.

The other requests are more problematic, Venkataraman said. The Shelburne Green business park along the east side of Route 7 south of Shelburne village is zoned as a commercial district. There are homes to the north and east; Vermont Teddy Bear Co. is located to the south and Shelburne Vineyard sits across Route 7 to the west.

Concerts are not allowed under the current zoning for Shelburne Green, which permits food processing and light manufacturing, he said.

Dave Marshall with Civil Engineering Associates is working with Shelburne Green owners. He noted that original permits for the development allowed the commercial users to have additional functions. For example, the Vermont Tortilla Company in the park both makes tortillas and sells them to the public.

Likewise, the development was approved to have a food service operation of up to 2,500 square feet to serve employees at the various businesses in the park between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Marshall said. To date, no such facility has been built.

It’s that part of the permit that Shelburne Green would like to amend to allow for a café that would serve food to both employees in the business park and to the public between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., closing by 10 p.m., Marshall said.

The request includes using the space for occasional special events. In fact, Shelburne Green has negotiated with the Gables neighborhood to promise to hold just four such events per year that would end by 7 p.m., project officials explained.

The café in question would be separate from the existing 1,500-square-foot tasting room already run by Fiddlehead. No decision has been made yet regarding who would run the new café, according to Norm Stanislas, property manager for Shelburne Green.

Venkataraman said the request strays from zoning regulations. “An accessory food service that serves dinner really has nothing to do with a light manufacturing use,” he said.

In addition, the board has no ability to regulate special events based on the current zoning. “We can only administer laws that have been explicitly written,” he said.

Board members wondered how the proposed café differs from nearby development. “There are events at Shelburne Museum. I think there are weddings at (Shelburne) Vineyard. What are the guidelines that we’re supposed to follow as a (Development Review Board) given that right in that neighborhood on Route 7 those things are happening?” asked board member Anne Bentley.

Venkataraman said the vineyard follows regulations for agricultural businesses, which allow for special events. The answer for Shelburne Museum was less straightforward.

“There is an interesting agreement with the museum and the town,” Venkataraman said.

The museum, which has its own zoning designation, shares event plans for a whole year with town officials so they can factor services needed such as police patrols, he explained.

Shelburne Green’s lawyer Liam Murphy said the request boils down to asking for the food service hours to be extended and to allow for a few special events. He offered examples such as Burton Snowboards in Burlington and Cabot Hosiery Mills in Northfield that host annual factory sales a couple of weekends per year.

“We’re having a struggle here with staff. They are proposing that this district be used solely for limited manufacturing. The uses that commonly go with manufacturing today are often the incidental uses that sometimes are the things that make them the money,” he said.

Several neighbors spoke against the café hours extending past 6 p.m. and the activity that would mean.

Clark Hinsdale III attended the meeting with his mother, who lives in the Gables. He said the extra hours would add up to hundreds of extra hours of activity. “It’s an immense amount of time to have an alcohol-serving establishment operating feet away from a residential neighborhood,” he said.

Ian Rutherford, a new resident to the Gables, complained about the noise from a recent afternoon concert at Fiddlehead. He called the proposal for the café a “beer hall.”

Hinsdale also questioned where on Shelburne Green’s plans the café would be situated, suggesting it differed from earlier approved plans that envisioned a campus food service. 

John Day, the board member running the meeting at the time, chose that point to end discussion, saying that question needed to be clarified.

The board agreed to resume discussion of the Shelburne Green application at its Aug. 21 meeting.

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