BERLIN — After months of lobbying and changes to town code, the Waystead Inn has gotten approval from the Berlin Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to host functions beyond the parameters of a classic bed and breakfast.
“You won’t have any complaints,” attorney Mark Cropper, who represented the Inn, promised the BZA Wednesday.
Inn owner Mark Kaufman wants to host birthday parties, weddings, retreats and dinner clubs at his bed and breakfast. Cropper described Kaufman’s vision for Waystead as “something new, something different,” and promised that it would be a benefit to the town.
The majority of the BZA agreed and granted Kaufman several privileges, including the ability to serve any meal instead of only breakfast, the option of opening up a fifth guest room where before he was only allowed to rent four, and, most importantly, the ability to host events at the Inn that could include up to 30 participants.
The 30-person limit was suggested by Cropper, though he did point out that the fire marshal had cleared the Inn for as many as 78 occupants.
After the concessions granted by the board, the Waystead Inn will be the first bed and breakfast to take advantage of recent text changes to town code, adopted this spring by the Mayor and Council, that allows the BZA the authority to expand the operations of bed and breakfasts in Berlin. The text change was sparked by a petition submitted by Kaufman.
BZA Chair Joe Moore was the lone vote against Wednesday’s petition.
“I just wonder if the text change allows us to morph a bed and breakfast to a commercial site where people are coming,” he said. “My honest concern is that it acts like a commercial use in a residential neighborhood.”
By opening up Waystead to host events that would include participants that weren’t actually guests at the inn, Moore pointed out that the establishment would be functioning in a commercial manner. While he admitted that a bed and breakfast was already a commercial endeavor, Moore explained that it was by nature extremely limited in just how commercial they could become so as to better fit into a residential neighborhood, which is where Waystead is located.
By granting them the ability to host events, Moore felt the BZA was basically lifting those limitations and allowing Waystead to function as a commercial entity, which he believed violated the residential zoning it fell under, despite the text change adopted by the council.
Resident Ron Cascio, a member of the Planning Commission who spoke during the BZA hearing as a resident, echoed Moore.
“I like your term, Mr. Moore, ‘morph,’” he said.
Cascio agreed that if approval of events was granted the BZA would be “morphing [Waystead] into a more commercial use in a residential neighborhood.”
Kaufman said he understood the concern but emphasized that the events would not be open to the public.
“The reason I want to do a dinner club is I want to make it clear to everybody that Waystead Inn is a private house,” he said.
Kaufman also promised that parking would not be an issue and agreed to submit a parking plan to the town in the near future. Joe Hill, a resident who lives near Waystead, lent his support to Kaufman’s petition.
“They’re good neighbors … I don’t foresee any problems,” he said.
Cropper appealed to the board to give the new venture a chance and reminded it has the authority to revoke approval at any time.
“We can make this work … give it a shot,” he said.
The board voted 4-1, with Moore opposed, to approve.