On May 25, 2022

Woodstock residents want town vote for on-farm restaurants

By Katy Savage

After controversy has yielded no decision from the Woodstock Select Board about changing the zoning bylaws for on-farm restaurants, the issue may be put to voters.

At least 151 people signed a petition, recorded by Town Clerk Charles Degener on May 11, requesting a town vote on the matter. The petitioners said in a letter to the Select Board that they had “no choice” but to file the petition as some of the stipulations were too onerous, they said.

“As you know, we are concerned about a provision that requires a farmer or restaurant operator to track the weight, volume, or revenue of every ingredient used in a meal, such as salt, coffee, and beverages,” the petitioners said.

The petition was created to “ensure we have a path toward a pragmatic set of rules that will promote agripreneurism on Woodstock farms — entirely consistent with the goals of the Woodstock Town Plan,” the letter said.

The Select Board held two public hearings about the on farm restaurant amendment in April, which was brought to the Select Board by a petition. The Planning Commission urged the Select Board to reject the amendment so commission members could review it, to the dismay of some residents. Residents aired criticism of the Planning Commission for being “biased, ” being too slow to respond and too reluctant to make changes to zoning regulations.

The discussion in Woodstock has been ongoing since the owners of Peace Field Farm asked town leaders to create a commercial restaurant in a residential area with seating up to 80 people. Peace Field Farm would be open up to seven days a week, until 11 p.m.

Some residents said the restaurant would promote agriculture and the farm-to-table concept, while others were concerned about putting a commercial business in a residential area.

The original amendment was rejected by the Select Board on April 22. The on-farm amendment was last discussed by the Select Board on April 29, but the Select Board made no decision on April 29.

“The Select Board is considering how to rework (the amendment) and will figure out next steps,” Interim Town Manager David Green said.

Green said he did not know the details of the amendment, of concern to the provision concerning petitioners, requiring the farmer to detail ingredients used. Green also did not know when the Select Board would discuss the amendment again.

“We’re hoping sooner rather than later but it has not made any agendas yet,” Green said on Monday, May 23.

The Select Board has up to a year to take up the petition, Green said.

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