Williamsburg Planning Board Approves Site Plan for Event Venue at Valley View Farm

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, November 3, 2016, by Fran Ryan

Valley View Farm is one step closer to operating an event venue in a renovated 100-year-old historic barn on its Walpole Road property.

At a joint meeting with the Zoning Board of Appeals Wednesday night, the Planning Board approved a site plan for the venue submitted by farm owners Susan Fortgang and her husband, David Nehring, for their farm at 16 Walpole Road.

Fortgang and Nehring are hoping to use the renovated post-and-beam barn to host a variety of events for up to 200 guests with roughly 50 events spread out over the course of a year.

The couple had almost completed renovations on the barn in April when Northampton Building Commissioner Louis Hasbrouck issued a stop-work order because he had not issued a building permit for all of the renovations.

Hasbrouck said that before he can issue the building permit, the town must first approve a special permit for the venue. If the farm is granted the special permit, the building will be inspected and it will be Hasbrouck’s decision whether to approve the renovations already complete and to allow the rest of the work to continue.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Planning Board found that the proposed project constituted a suitable development for the town, subject to certain conditions.

Those included that the farm’s emergency response plan be reviewed by the Williamsburg Police and Fire departments annually; that no amplified sounds be allowed outside the building; that all events end by 10 p.m. unless approved in advance by the Select Board; and that no more than 100 events are held each year, with no more than four in one week.

The plan nows moves to the ZBA, which will review the Planning Board’s report and recommendations and decide whether to issue a special permit for the venue within 45 days, ZBA Chairman Charles Dudek said. He said the ZBA has authority to adopt the conditions as they stand or to modify them and impose different conditions.

“This is a significant project for the community and I think that we should take the time to review this carefully,” Dudek said, praising both the Planning Board and the farm owners for the work they have put into the project.

“I am thrilled with the outcome of the Planning Board’s approval of our permit, and I appreciate their dedication to the safety of our community,” Fortgang said.

The renovated barn was originally built by William Skinner, of the prominent Skinner family who brought industrial development to Williamsburg (then “Skinnerville”) in the mid-1800s. The couple moved the barn from The Berkshire School of Music in South Hadley in 2014 to save it from demolition.

Valley View Farm currently has a maple sugar house, and offers vegetables, pumpkins, fruit, horse hay and firewood for sale. The farm also has a winery license, which Fortgang says she hopes to be able to use soon.