Hinsdale withdraws Fiddlehead appeal: Brewery nixes café, seeks space elsewhere

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

An appeal filed opposing Fiddlehead Brewing Co.’s plan to add a café to its Shelburne Green facility has been withdrawn, paving the way for the brewery to proceed with its much-needed expansion.

Last week, Clark Hinsdale III withdrew the appeal he filed at the end of August in Vermont Superior Court Environmental Division on behalf of his mother, Nancy Hinsdale. She lives on Covington Lane in the Gables neighborhood adjacent to Shelburne Green Business Park where Fiddlehead is located.

The withdrawal followed an agreement between Hinsdale and the commercial park’s owners regarding future development in Shelburne Green, particularly where a café or other food operation would be located.

“The big part of our appeal was a restaurant in an area where restaurants are not allowed,” Hinsdale said this week.

After nearly two years of review, the commercial park’s developers received approval in August from the Shelburne Development Review Board to amend the original 2014 permit for the development so the brewery could expand to approximately 40,000 square feet. The plans included 2,500 square feet for a café.

While the expansion received no opposition from town officials or the public, the café request became the key sticking point. That, along with concerns that the brewery would also host special events with music and crowds, sparked opposition from neighbors.

The original plans for the commercial park envisioned a food-service operation serving mostly workers and visitors to the park. Although permitted, a food tenant has never been added to the development.

The recent request sought to revise what was already allowed by locating it at the brewery and extending its operating hours from 6-9 p.m.

After an earlier court challenge and negotiations with the Gables homeowners, Shelburne Green officials agreed to additional fencing and buffers along the neighborhood boundary with the park. They revised the brewery design to tuck the café into the brewery building. Ultimately, the development review board approved the expansion with the café and the longer hours.

The appeal that followed led to Fiddlehead’s decision to forego the café to so as not to hold up the brewery expansion any longer.

Opened in 2015, Fiddlehead has enjoyed strong growth in the craft beer market and has recently expanded into New Hampshire. At an economic development forum in Shelburne last month, Fiddlehead owner Matt Cohen said that success makes expanding its facility critical.

“We’re in the process of rapid growth,” Cohen told the audience. “We’ve grown double-digit growth every year since we started. We are Vermont’s number-one selling draft beer and we’re producing about 30,000 barrels. I cannot produce another barrel of beer in that space.”

That pressure means the café – a typical addition to many breweries around Vermont – will not happen in Shelburne.

“We’re moving that piece of the business to another town that’s close by in Chittenden County,” Cohen said.

Cohen wouldn’t comment further on exactly where that location will be, saying details had not been finalized yet. He previously said he has signed a five-year lease for 5,000 square feet of commercial space for storage in Williston.

Cohen and Shelburne Green developer Graham Goldsmith could not be reached for comment this week regarding the permit appeal.

Hinsdale said the agreement with Shelburne Green called for him to withdraw his appeal and in return the developer would withdraw the request for the café to be located at the brewery.

Shelburne Green also agreed to limit any future requests for food-service additions to the park to be located away from the buildings nearest the Gables neighborhood, Hinsdale said.

“We were never trying to oppose their expansion,” he emphasized.

Shelburne Development Review Coordinator Ravi Venkataraman said the Fiddlehead project is on track to get a building permit to move ahead with its construction plans this fall.

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