The Brooklyn Estate in Berlin received a one-year transient use exception extension after the Worcester County Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 in favor of the extension on July 8.
Board member James Purnell opposed the ruling.
As part of the extension, exceptions defined last year are included: music and events stop at 10 p.m., no parking directly on Flower Street, the event coordinator must be present for the event, no more than 12 events per year, and Worcester and Berlin police departments must be notified of all events. Events are also limited to weddings, family reunions, corporate events and local class reunions.
The core of the issue dealt with the fallout of Gov. Larry Hogan’s state of emergency that was put in place last year and how it affected the estate located in an A-2 agricultural district.
Because of the state of emergency, however, estate proprietor Patrick Brady said they had to cancel every reservation.
“In March (we had to start) canceling events and had to cancel events for large gatherings throughout the year,” Brady said.
In his testimony, Brady said he believes he has addressed all the questions that neighbors could potentially have, including noise concerns, parking, trashcan placement and purchasing and revitalizing an adjacent home that had been condemned. The other property is now used for parking.
“I have attempted to and will in the future continue to respect the neighbors in the community that welcomed me nearly 10 years ago when I purchased the home,” Brady said. “I believe these two properties are best suited for this type of transient use because they’re situated between the growth area and the transfer station which is a couple of 100-plus acres of uninhabitable land.”
One of the questions the board posed to its legal team was how long of an exception they could grant, specifically if adding two years was possible.
“You only can do one year at a time,” board attorney David Gaskill said. “And there’s not an exception (designated) for a pandemic.”
“Maybe there should be,” board member Robert Purcell replied.
Board chair David Dypsky asked if an additional year is granted, could someone later appeal that decision, which Gaskill confirmed was possible.
Purnell asked about the potential precedent the board’s decision could set if they granted Brady’s request.
“Throughout the years, this board has many times granted a second year for transient use.”
Purnell’s concern was that this extra year, which is being talked about as a second year, could be seen as a third year, considering the original extension year was 2020.
“This tonight is approval for his second year,” board advisor Cathy Zirkle said. "The transient use law says you can only have two years or you need to have a text amendment or a rezoning. You can only approve the second year tonight.”
One Berlin resident, Gabe Purnell, attended to testify against the approval of the permit.
"I do feel that it’s setting a precedent in the community, a neighborhood that’s historical,” he said. “It will cause trash problems and other problems we can’t foresee. I truly feel it sets a precedent for other neighbors down the road — at least three AirBnB’s in the area … they’re going to feel discriminated against. And they have a right to. Until the AirBnB's, I’ve had no problem with it. But to start the weddings and all of this, it’s just opening a can of worms that I think we’re not ready for.”