By Katy Savage
After a year of debate and multiple public hearings, the Woodstock Select Board unanimously passed an amendment on Tuesday, Oct. 25 to allow on-farm restaurants in rural residential areas.
The amendment will go into effect after 21 days and will allow restaurants of up to 2,800 square feet to open on properties at least 10 acres in size between 11:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. five days per week, with attendance limited according to fire codes.
The public hearing on Tuesday lasted just 20 minutes, but residents had concerns. Some asked the board to postpone the discussion and leave it to voters on Town Meeting Day in March 2023.
“The reason this has bellied up is because of the one situation that has pushed it as a topic to the forefront out of context to the whole town plan,” resident Wendy Marrinan said, referring to a controversial proposal by Peace Field Farm to create a 2,592-square-foot barn style restaurant on the Pomfret town line. The farm was denied an Act 250 permit last year and the topic has divided the town.
Following the Act 250 denial, 5% of Woodstock voters signed a petition to allow on-farm restaurants in rural areas. The petition and discussion concerned planning commission members, who sent the Select Board a memo in February, outlining concerns — primarily saying rural areas would be impacted.
“The purpose of this amendment is counter to clear goals laid out in the town plan to protect the rural areas of Woodstock,” the memo said.
Some residents on Tuesday asked the Select Board to wait until the town plan, which is currently under review, to be updated.
“I would want the board to consider a broader involvement of the entire community,” resident Al Alessi told the Woodstock Select Board on Tuesday.
Woodstock Select Board chair Joe Swanson said he didn’t want to drag the discussion further, with many board members echoing those sentiments.
“I think we have given the community a full opportunity to discuss the issues in front of us,” Select Board member Susan Ford commented, in response.