Entertainment Venue at Williamsburg Farm Wins Approval

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, November 24, 2016, by Fran Ryan

A new venue for weddings and other special events will soon be in operation at Valley View Farm at a renovated 100-year-old post-and-beam barn originally built by William Skinner.

The town’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday granted Susan Fortgang and her husband David Nehring a special permit to operate the venue at their 100-acre farm at 16 Walpole Road.

“This has been a long and involved process, but we really hope this activity will be a success,” ZBA Chairman Charles Dudek said. “If they succeed, that will be good for the farm and good for the town.”

Dudek said the ZBA unanimously approved the permit, including board member Marciana Caplis, whose participation in the process had been questioned. Caplis also serves on the Conservation Commission, which currently has an enforcement order against Valley View Farm for the removal of trees within a wetland buffer zone.

The decision on the event permit was postponed last week so that the board could seek legal advice from the town attorney, who informed the ZBA that there was no legal reason or conflict of interest that should prevent Caplis from participating in the decision-making process, Dudek said.

“I believe that Marci Caplis is capable of making an informed and impartial decision,” he said.

According to Dudek, the ZBA supported most of the conditions set forth by the Planning Board in its approval of the site plan review for the project. Those included the requirement of an emergency response plan that would be annually reviewed by the Wiliamsburg Police and Fire Departments, that no amplified sounds be allowed outside the building, and that all events end by 10 p.m. unless otherwise approved in advance by the Select Board.

In 2014, Fortgang and Nehring had the barn where the events will be held relocated to their property from the Berkshire School of Music in South Hadley to save it from demolition.

The barn was originally built by Skinner, the son of the rags-to-riches 19th-century millionaire William Skinner, who founded the American silk industry in “Skinnerville,” now Williamsburg.

The barn can accommodate 200 guests and the couple hopes to have roughly 50 events spread out over the course of a year.

Fortgang said that she was very happy to have the permit granted and to move on with their plans. She says the venue should be operational in January.

“We are thrilled and excited to offer a unique wedding and event destination to our community and beyond,” Fortgang said Wednesday evening. “As of today, we welcome reservations for weddings and other special occasions as the venue open is year round.”

Valley View Farm currently has a maple sugarhouse, and offers vegetables, pumpkins, fruit, horse hay and firewood for sale.

They also have a winery license, which Fortgang says she hopes to be able to use soon.

“The use of farms for wedding and event venues has increased in popularity,” Dudek said. “Something like this can really help support the economic viability of a farm.”