Yarmouth neighbors question proposed event hall, zoning rewrite

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YARMOUTH — A proposal for an event hall that came before the Planning Board has started conversations about redefining permitted uses in rural residential neighborhoods.

Tanner Maguire has submitted an application to build the event hall at 634 North Road, which prompted some neighbors to express concerns about the potential for increased noise and traffic. The hall would be constructed as a barn, on land owned by Maguire’s parents, and called The Barn at North and Ledge.

The property owned by Carla and Robert Maguire now has one large house, a smaller house, and a barn. They already operate two businesses from the property: Maguire Construction and Black Bear Woodworking. The plan proposes that the larger house be moved to the back of the lot and maintained as a residence.

The event hall would be constructed where the larger house now sits. The other barn would continue housing the existing businesses, while the smaller house would work in conjunction with the new barn as office space or for users of the event hall.

The Planning Board on Feb. 4, in addition to reviewing the project proposal, also discussed redefining permitted uses in rural residential (RR) zones. Under the current zoning language, businesses such as convention centers aren’t allowed. The board didn’t discuss rezoning, but rather rewriting language in the zoning ordinance.

Many neighbors expressed dismay over the idea of having a building hosting weddings and family reunions close to their homes.

“Families are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their properties and to not be invaded by excessive traffic, loud music, and happy and or intoxicated revellers into the night,” North Road resident Sheryl Roberts said.

Roberts, who lives across the street from the proposed project, expressed many concerns to the Planning Board, including safety and noise related to traffic, noise from music and guests, intoxicated drivers, excess light, and decreased property values.

Several other neighbors expressed the same concerns.

Lenora Felger of North Road said that while the proposed project is a good business idea, the neighborhood is not a suitable location.

“I know Yarmouth is looking to move in a forward direction with this and be progressive, but this is not an area for this,” she said.

Felger said an event hall would work better on Route 1. Others agreed, saying an event hall would be out of character with their neighborhood.

Rewriting the language would specifically allow businesses with a rural character in rural neighborhoods. Town planner Vanessa Farr said this could include farm stands or farmers markets, tree farms, bed and breakfasts, and horse camps.

But Bill Harke of Ryder Road said that despite being proposed a barn, an event hall is much different from the agricultural businesses Farr described.

“This is not agri-tourism,” Harke said. “This is just an ear sore, an eye sore, and a traffic problem for everyone.”

Harke said rewriting the language of a zoning ordinance because of one business could prompt other businesses to seek similar action.

“This is a slippery slope,” he said. “You’re setting a precedent if you let this go forward.”

Next, the Planning Board will decide what kind of language it wants to use in the zoning ordinance and if the event hall would be a permitted use. Any language changes would then go to Town Council and if, after two public hearings, the language is approved and an event hall is included, the Maguires would have to come back to the Planning Board.

They could then propose the project again, with no use limitations. 

Some of the neighbors said they will continue to urge the Planning Board and Town Council not to allow the event hall to be built.

Sarah Witte, the architect of the project, said she and the Maguires want to work with the neighbors to address their concerns. Witte said she hopes the issues can be worked through because she believes The Barn at North and Ledge would be a great addition to the neighborhood and to the town.

“The idea is that this would be a very appropriate use for the neighborhood and would be very compatible,” Witte said. “It’s something we’d like to see in the town, to have compatible businesses located within our neighborhoods.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.