Weston Playhouse expansion site plan gets OK with conditions

 

By Cynthia Prairie

Site plans for the new cultural arts facility of the Weston Playhouse Theatre Co. have been given the go-ahead by the Weston Planning Commission with seven minor conditions for use and one conclusion of law that could force the playhouse to speed up its capital fund-raising campaign. The decision was sent to the theater company on Thursday, Nov. 21.

This is the second local hurdle that the company had to overcome to begin construction. In early October, the Weston Zoning Board of Adjustment OK’d the conditional use permit. The site permit can still be appealed to the state Environmental Court within 30 days of the ruling.

ON THE COVER: Artist's rendering of the new theater project of the Weston Playhouse Theatre Co. Photo WPTC. Above, the Walker Farm as it stands today. Photo by Chester Telegraph

ON THE COVER: Artist’s rendering of the new theater project of the Weston Playhouse Theatre Co. Photo WPTC. Above, the Walker Farm as it stands today. Photo by Chester Telegraph

As for state permits, WPTC’s managing director Steve Stettler said its facilities committee says it has “submitted a Waste Water Permit Application and a Water Supply Permit Application to the (state) Agency of Natural Resources.” That panel said that both applications are being reviewed by ANR and it expects to have permits issued “in the near future.” Other permit applications have either been submitted or are being prepared, according to the committee.

In its November decision, the planning commission found that the theater company’s construction sequence to be inadequate. The theater company based the construction sequence on its fund-raising goals, and just recently hired a capital campaign administrator to oversee the project. However, it set construction to begin in April 2015 and completed within 13 months. The planning commission concluded that zoning regulations require that, once a zoning permit is given, construction begin within 12 months of its issuance and completed within 30 months “or the zoning permit shall become null and void and reapplication to complete any activities shall be required.” That would mean that construction would have to start five months earlier — by mid-November of 2014.

When asked about the construction schedule, Stettler forwarded this response from the committee: “We are actively moving forward with our Capital Campaign.  We will stay in close communication with the appropriate organizations as we approach any required permit conditions. We will submit our detailed construction plan no later than 120 days prior to the commencement of construction.” Amy Bannon, the new administrator of the capital campaign, said last week that the playhouse is more than halfway to its goal of $10 million for the project.

Among planning commission conditions are maintaining and utilizing existing buildings on the property: a single family home; two barns and two silos.  The commission stated that, “Abandonment, removal or change of use of any of these structures … shall constitute a significant change and will require an application” prior to any change. WPTC is using the house, connecting barn and 1950s barn “for storage, and we have no other plans for them at the present time.”

The board also requested that all sight lines be maintained through snow and vegetative management.

In mid-August, the Weston Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Weston Planning Commission had held a joint hearing on redevelopment and construction plans of the 5-acre Walker Farm, which was purchased for the playhouse’s new facilities. It sits just north of the Weston Green, at Route 100 and the Chester Mountain Road. 

Plans are for building a 2,900-square-foot “open plan” stage behind the existing structures, which would be masked from street view by a berm created in a large rolling field between 703 Main St. (WPTC’s administrative offices) and the farm buildings. The new stage would accommodate up to 140 patrons and be surrounded by 69 parking spaces — three of them concrete and handicapped-designated. Fourteen more parking spaces would be created at 703 Main, connected to the new facility with the mowed walking path.  The new facilities would also include a lobby and rest rooms as well as dressing rooms, a green room, laundry, storage and workspace backstage. The entire building would have sprinklers, fed by a 26,000-gallon tank.

 

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Filed Under: Business & Personal FinanceCommunity and Arts LifeFeaturedIn the ArtsWeston

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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