BERLIN – The Berlin Planning Commission approved changes to a fence at a local business after discussion of concerns regarding its installation.
On Wednesday, the planning commission approved changes to the fence at Burley Oak Brewery. While the commission originally approved a four-foot fence to enclose the brewery’s beer garden, Burley Oak increased the height of the fence to six feet in August. After one vote to approve the change failed, a second vote to approve it passed 4-2, with commission members Barb Stack and Pete Cosby opposed.
“A six-foot fence is only going to better the project. I know it’s built, I know he did wrong, but that’s between your department and him,” commission member John Barrett told Berlin Planning Director Dave Engelhart. “How he went about it was wrong. We don’t know all the details. You’ve told us some. That’s a different topic.”
According to Engelhart, the site plan approved in April for Burley Oak featured a four-foot fence. He noticed on Aug. 24 that “they were constructing another fence on top of the fence,” bringing its height to six feet. Engelhart said that revisions to the project’s site plan needed to be reviewed by the planning commission so he issued a stop work order on Aug. 24.
“Noticing that that stop work order was removed I placed another one on the 25th,” he said, adding that the fence was completed in spite of the stop work orders. Engelhart said that in his four years working for the town, he’d issued four stop work orders. Three of them were to Burley Oak.
Engelhart advised Burley Oak owner Bryan Brushmiller that he needed to have the change to the fence approved by the planning commission. Because Brushmiller needed to submit a rendering of the fence to the commission first, the September meeting of the commission was moved from Sept. 13 to Sept. 20 to give him time to do that. While the commission had the rendering at Wednesday’s meeting, Brushmiller was not in attendance.
“I’m disappointed he’s not here after all the hoopla,” Cosby said.
Cosby said he didn’t like the change to the fence. Stack expressed concern regarding the fact that patrons of Burley Oak often parked their cars in the lots of neighboring properties because its lot was full.
Engelhart said that according to town code, the brewery had sufficient parking.
Barrett’s subsequent motion to approve the fence failed, with Cosby, Stack and Phyllis Purnell opposed.
Barrett, echoed by fellow commission member Newt Chandler, said the change was already made and that it would help keep sound from entertainment at the brewery from bothering neighbors. Chandler said the increase in fence height had been requested by the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners.
“The fence is already there and the liquor board requested it,” he said. “No matter what you think of the owner and his methods … I just think it’s going to help with the neighbors and the sound.”
A second motion by Barrett to approve the fence passed, with Stack and Cosby opposed. Cosby maintained he didn’t like the fence.
“It’s not the height that bothers me. It’s the appearance,” he said.
While the unauthorized removal of a stop work order is a civil penalty that can come with as much as a $1,000 fine and even jail time, Berlin Town Administrator Laura Allen said after Wednesday’s meeting that Brushmiller would not be cited.
“Without any evidence Mr. Brushmiller pulled down the signs, we’re not in a position to cite him,” Allen said.
She said that the town did expect businesses to follow regulations.
“The rules apply to everybody,” she said. “We do our best to apply them equitably.”
In an interview Thursday, Brushmiller said he missed the 6 p.m. meeting because he thought it started at 7 p.m. He said it was not true that any stop work order had been removed.
“The stop work order was put up after the fence was built,” he said.
Brushmiller said he spent months working with the commission to get the expansion he’s been working on approved.
“I spent thousands on an architect to get stamped plans,” he said.
Brushmiller said he had no idea that he needed to get planning commission approval to increase the height of the fence.
When he became aware of the stop work order issued Aug. 24, he went to town hall and purchased a fence permit. He even supplied The Dispatch with a copy of the receipt showing that he bought the $40 permit that day. Brushmiller said he didn’t realize that what he needed was planning commission approval.
He maintains that no work was done after the stop work order was issued.
“All construction was built before any stop work order was given,” he said.
He also says it’s untrue that the orders were removed.
“No one took any stop work orders down,” he said. “We had no reason to take it down. The fence was constructed days before.”