SNOW HILL – Concerns initially shared with a town zoning board spilled over into another administrative hearing this week as the Inn Berlin sought a license to serve beer and wine.
The Worcester County Board of License Commissioners on Wednesday approved the license request from the Inn Berlin but not before neighbors objected to the bed and breakfast’s plan to host outdoor special events and its ability to operate as a restaurant.
“Why do we need to shoehorn a full-service restaurant in a residential district?” neighboring property owner Joe Hill said.
After getting approval from the Berlin Board of Zoning Appeals last week to host outdoor special events, the connections of the Inn Berlin approached the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners Wednesday seeking a beer and wine license. Proprietors Maya and Marco Tomasello asked for the ability to serve alcohol the property had when it was the Waystead Inn as well as the option to have beer and wine at its outdoor special events. Under the approval the Tomasellos received from the zoning board, they can host up to 20 events a year for up to 60 people, with no more than one unrelated event a week.
Hill, who was there with a handful of neighbors to protest the request, said he was worried about potential noise as well as the impact of what could be a full-service restaurant on the houses nearby. He said despite the nearby library, it was a residential zone.
“People have gotten the impression there’s been a change in the neighborhood because the library is there,” he said, adding that a library was permitted in an R-2 zone.
Hill also referenced a letter from Berlin Realtor Cam Bunting indicating the changes proposed at the inn could have a negative impact on his home’s value.
“I’m pleading with you guys,” he said. “It can’t happen.”
William Esham, chairman of the board, pointed out that when the bed and breakfast was the Waystead Inn it had been permitted to host dinner parties for up to 30 guests. Hill acknowledged that but said the Waystead Inn had proposed a once-a-month dinner club and had never operated as a full-service restaurant.
“I’ve been there every day,” he said. “It hasn’t happened.”
Amy Field, a Brittany Lane resident, said she was also concerned about the impact special events with up to 60 people would have on her home. She said she worried about property value as well as her ability to enjoy her backyard.
“Sound does carry very easily through that area,” she said.
Andrew Park, another Brittany Lane resident, echoed her concerns and shared a video clip taken on a Brittany Lane Saturday evening, when nothing but birds chirping could be heard from his yard. He said tented events would drastically change that.
Esham said that the town had already given the Inn Berlin permission to hold special events when the board of appeals approved its conditional use request last week. Because of that, he said there was nothing to preclude the inn from hosting events and allowing guests to bring their own drinks if the inn wasn’t licensed to serve them.
“We can’t stop the outside events,” he said.
Hill nevertheless entreated the board to consider other property owners. Hill, who pointed out he’d lived in his home 35 years, said it seemed as if everyone was working to accommodate the Tomasello family.
“I pay my taxes on time and I expect to be respected and have my property values defended by boards such as this,” he said. “If that’s not why we’re here I don’t know why I showed up.”
Attorney Hugh Cropper, representing the Inn Berlin, said that if the bed and breakfast was licensed to sell beer and wine, there’d be more control than if event attendees were allowed to bring their own alcoholic beverages because it would be a licensed premise and the Tomasellos would be responsible for compliance.
The board voted 3-0 to allow the inn to serve beer and wine inside as well as permission to serve outside at special events by request.