BERLIN – A Berlin bed and breakfast will be able to host outdoor special events following approval from the board of appeals last week.
The Berlin Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 last week to approve a special exception that will allow The Inn Berlin to hold tented outdoor events. Though some residents of the area spoke against the proposal, proprietor Maya Tomasello said the plans had already been adjusted in response to community concerns.
“I do think that between now and the hearing two months ago, we’ve reduced our numbers, we’ve come up with conditions for approval,” she said. “We want to be good neighbors, good townspeople. That’s why we’re laying it out that way.”
Pino and Karen Tomasello, former owners of Fresco’s and Sello’s restaurants, told the board in February they’d purchased the bed and breakfast property last fall. They said their son and daughter-in-law, Maya, would be living at the property and running the inn. They asked the board for permission to hold tented events for up to 100 people outside and to increase indoor capacity for dinner guests to 75.
The board at that time tabled a decision in an effort to get more information on the proposal. The Tomasellos returned to the board this month with a lawyer and a scaled-down proposal to hold outdoor events for up to 60 people. Attorney Hugh Cropper assured the board that if the inn was hosting a tented event, it wouldn’t also be serving guests inside. He added that the property, which has 21 on-site parking spaces, had permission from Worcester County to use up to 40 spaces in the adjacent library parking lot.
“We’re proposing to have outdoor, intimate private events that would include a wedding or a family celebration centered around a birthday or anniversary,” Maya Tomasello said. “We’re also interested in having holiday celebrations but primarily we’d like to have weddings.”
She said improvements had been made to the exterior of the facility, including the addition of a brick patio and more landscaping, since the property had been purchased.
“We do hope to hold these events and enrich the community,” she said. “We want to bring people to the town to develop the economy and continue to see its growth.”
Board member Woody Bunting asked how many events Tomasello wanted to hold each year.
“It really depends on the interest we receive,” she said. “I have not received any interest yet.”
When Bunting asked if Tomasello had talked about her plans with the inn’s closest residential neighbor, she said she had not. In response to questions regarding intentions to use the inn as a restaurant, Tomasello said she just wanted whatever was permitted under the property’s special exception from 2012. That exception allowed the property to have up to 30 dinner guests.
“Whatever we’re allowed to do we want to be able to do…,” she said. “As of now I’m not planning to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to the general public but because of the special exception the property has we’d like to continue to be able to do that and reevaluate our availability and our offerings at a later date.”
Members of the public, who weren’t allowed to attend Wednesday’s meeting but were able to weigh in via Facebook, shared questions and concerns about the proposal.
“As a resident of Brittany Lane, the street behind library, I am strongly against the B&B being used as a wedding venue due to the noise factor of people drinking and outside music in a quiet residential neighborhood,” Lori Park said.
Joe Hill, who lives next door to the inn, said he knew the board members and the property owner had walked the site.
“I have to say not including me the adjacent property owner is ethically questionable,” Hill said.
Though Bunting, who has served on the board for many years, disputed the intention of the property’s 2012 special exception, attorney Hugh Cropper said that wasn’t the issue up for debate. Joe Moore, chairman of the board, agreed, as the property had been purchased with the special exception in place.
Bunting said he nevertheless had concerns about the potential for a restaurant in a residential area. According to the inn’s website, coming in 2022 is Hive, the inn’s “signature eatery,” which will be open to the public by reservation.
Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director, spoke up in support of the inn’s request. She said a survey had indicated that people wanted a wedding venue in town.
“I’m looking forward to everything they have to offer the town here…,” she said. “The economic impact of this, people come to town and stay for an event. It definitely has an effect on the vitality of the town.”
Cropper said he viewed the inn and its potential outdoor events as a quasi-commercial use that would be a good transition from the nearby fire company and library to residential area on the other side of the inn. He added that the Tomasellos were willing to limit the number of special events held annually to 20.
“They’re going to be good neighbors,” he said. “They live there.”
Board member John Apple suggested limiting the events a little more, perhaps to one per week, would address neighborhood concerns. When Tomasello pointed out that a client might want to host a rehearsal dinner, a wedding and a brunch all in the same weekend, Moore suggested a limit of no more than one unrelated event per week. Tomasello agreed and the board voted 3-1, with Bunting opposed, to approve the inn’s request with the condition that no more than 20 events be held each year, with no more than one unrelated event per week.