Local News

Woodstock considers new draft to allow on-farm restaurants

By Katy Savage

The Woodstock Select Board is reviewing a zoning amendment to allow on-farm restaurants.

The Select Board held a public hearing on June 27 for the proposal, drafted by Zoning Administrator Steven Bauer. The amendment would allow on-farm restaurants to seat up to 60 people and be open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., six days a week.

The proposal also limits special events, such as weddings, tastings, demonstrations and classes, to 12 per year, with attendance limited to 80 people. Noise levels from the nearest property line wouldn’t be able to exceed 70 decibels. Retail would be prohibited at the on-farm restaurant, the building size would be limited to 2,800 square feet and the menu would be required to feature products produced on-site. The lot size would have to be at least 10 acres, which could be reduced to five acres if using existing farm structures.

The debate about the restaurant has been contentious in Woodstock since the owners of Peace Field Farm approached town officials about an on-farm restaurant in September 2020. The owners originally wanted to have seating for 80 people and be open until 11 p.m. Several residents pushed back, with concerns about commercializing a rural area. After heated public discussion, the board decided in April 2022 to task the zoning administrator with drafting a zoning amendment.

Bauer clarified at the meeting on June 27 that any on-farm restaurant would need approval from the Development Review Board, which would take into consideration the character of the neighborhood, landscaping, lot size, access, traffic and other considerations.

Patrick Fultz, the owner of Sleep Woodstock, asked if 60 seats would be viable from a financial standpoint.

“I’m finding this to be a loosey-goosey here,” Fultz said. “Has anyone done the research? It seems like we’re picking numbers out of thin air.”

Concerns about the rural area and the noise level from events were also a concern.

“I still have concerns that this does not protect the rural character of residential areas strongly enough,” said Mary Margaret Sloan, a member of the Planning Commission.

A group of residents signed a petition in May, asking the Select Board for a town vote. The board has yet to act on the petition.

“Being a farmer, it’s not easy to make a living,” one farmer said at the meeting. “I think this is very much about Woodstock growing and evolving and supporting agriculture.”

Bauer said after the meeting that he’s in the process of making adjustments to the on-farm amendment and will likely limit how many events are allowed in his next draft. He anticipates it will be reviewed again in early August for a second public hearing. “It’s been a process to get to where we are now,” Bauer said. “It feels like we’re close.”

Mountain Times Newsletter

Sign up below to receive the weekly newsletter, which also includes top trending stories and what all the locals are talking about!