BERLIN – Officials delayed approval of a plan to host special events at a Berlin bed and breakfast to get more information about the proposal.
The Berlin Board of Zoning Appeals tabled a vote on a conditional use request that would have allowed The Inn Berlin — previously known as the Waystead Inn — to host special events for up to 100 people and to offer interior dining for 75 guests. Board members said they wanted more information before they made a decision.
“It’s kind of difficult to decide at this point what degree that this property should be allowed to be changed,” board member Woody Bunting said.
Pino and Karen Tomasello, former owners of Fresco’s and Sello’s restaurants, approached the board Wednesday with a request to expand the conditional use for the bed and breakfast at 15 Harrison Ave. They said they wanted to be able to hold tented events for up to 100 people on the site and also to increase the indoor capacity for dinner guests to 75. Currently, the property is allowed to have 30 dinner guests.
Karen Tomasello said she and her husband had purchased the property, for $355,000 in September per land records, but that their son and daughter-in-law would be operating it. Though it will remain primarily a bed and breakfast, they want to be able to occasionally host outdoor events.
“We’ve had people approach us about having tented events at this venue,” she said. “It has a nice big lawn out front. It’s not going to be our focus. The focus would be the running of the inn itself. We just feel it’s a nice option, especially in light of COVID, people want more outdoor events, more smaller events. We don’t want to overwhelm the property at all.”
She added the Worcester County Commissioners had granted the inn’s request to use 40 parking spaces at the adjacent library property as long as it was after library hours and approved in advance.
As far as expanding the indoor dining capacity at the inn, the Tomasellos said they wanted to seek a beer, wine and liquor license and that would require 75 seats.
“It’s not something we want to do on a nightly basis but it would assure us the liquor option,” Karen Tomasello said.
Her husband added, “We’ve been in the restaurant business for so many years, to have liquor, it makes the dining experience better for us. I’m not looking to have a full house every night.”
Bunting questioned if the property would be able to accommodate parking for 100 guests and asked if there should be a site plan illustrating the proposed parking layout.
“It’s something I’ll have to look into,” Planning Director Dave Engelhart said.
Board member John Apple expressed concern about commercial events being held in what was primarily a residential area. He added weddings could get loud.
“I know that living in Austin Circle we can hear the brewery,” he said. “We hear events on Main Street.”
Karen Tomasello said someone would be on site at each event to ensure there were no problems. She added she and her husband had held multiple liquor licenses in Worcester County during the last 40 years and had never had a violation.
Joe Moore, chairman of the board, said the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners typically addressed potential noise issues by setting a cutoff time for entertainment. He asked Apple how he’d feel about a 10 p.m. music limitation.
“That’s still somewhat hard to swallow due to the zoning of this location,” Apple said. “You’ve got some quaint little neighborhoods here. Brittany Lane, Austin Circle, the historic homes down Main Street. From experience sounds travels far throughout Berlin.”
Bunting said he felt Apple’s concerns were legitimate. He said he’d feel more comfortable about the proposal if the board knew the number of events the inn wanted to host and had more specifics on parking.
Moore, who pointed out he’d known the Tomasello family for years, pointed to the positive impact they’d had locally.
“The Tomasellos are the kind of business operators we should welcome to the town,” he said.
He added, however, that he wanted the board to be comfortable with the proposal.
“What I’m getting is a sense from the board they would like some more information,” he said.
The meeting, which was held via Zoom, did include the opportunity for public comment. Berlin resident Malia Ricks expressed concern with the proposal. She asked if the plan was to create a restaurant at the property. Karen Tomasello said it was not and added that the inn already had the capability to offer meals to 30 guests.
Ricks also mentioned parking and noise.
“We already have overflow issues on weekend when town events are happening,” she said. “Also as a neighbor I don’t want to hear music and partying every weekend for 100 guests.”
Karen Tomasello said the inn wanted to host intimate events.
“We don’t plan to have a partying type atmosphere,” she said. “We’ll be interviewing these clients. We’re not taking everyone.”
Bunting echoed Moore’s comments regarding the Tomasellos but said he still wanted more information.
“They certainly are well respected business people,” he said. “There’s a few details I would like to see if its possible we could get more information on.”
Apple pointed out that a conditional use was tied to the property, not to its owners. The board agreed to table the request until more information was provided.