Temple wedding and event center gets ZBA approvals

  • ZBA members Deb Harling and Allan Pickman discuss a variance request by the Stepping Stones Farm Wedding and Event Center. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/16/2022 12:37:54 PM

The Temple Zoning Board approved both a variance and a special exception Thursday to allow the operation of a wedding and event center in Temple, although the Stepping Stones Farm and Event Center still has to go through the Planning Board site plan approval process.

Owner Isabella “Boo” Martin has already held several events at the farm, after originally receiving informal permission from the Select Board to offer weddings, but after complaints from abutters, Martin was directed to the zoning and planning boards for a formal approval process.

On Thursday, the Zoning Board took up two separate issues related to the center – a variance to allow business to operate closer to the lot line than allowed, and a special exception to allow the event center to operate. The board unanimously approved both, but attached a long list of conditions meant to alleviate issues raised by neighbors concerning noise, safety and impact to the neighborhood.

The board first took up the issue of the variance, which Martin requested to allow events to occur on the historic barn on the property. The barn is within 33 feet of a lot line, where 100 feet is required for businesses, but Martin also administers the trust that owns the the adjacent lot.

Israel Piedra, the attorney representing Martin, argued that any impacts to property values or neighbors would impact only Martin, and if the property was ever sold, the buyer would be aware of the existing conditions when they purchased it. In their decision, the board referenced that connection several times, in their reasoning that the proximity did not harm the area, before approving the requested variance.

The board took several hours of testimony on the proposed event center, with people on both sides of the issue weighing in and the largest concerns coming from neighbors.

Piedra said the main concern Martin had heard from residents was about noise. He said music would only be played inside the barn, and that the “bottom line is it will comply with the Temple sound ordinance.”

He also pointed out that the event center would not be operating every day or year-round.

“We’re asking for 15 weddings a year;  we’re not asking for a huge operation,” Piedra said.

Included in the conditions were requirements that the parking be limited to 55 feet from the property line and permanent fencing be installed to limit parking to that area. Amplified sound is allowed only in the barn, with no music or loud noise after 10 p.m. The number of events is limited to 15 with up to 99 people, and 15 smaller events of up to 35 people. The barn can not be expanded without further approval from the town.

The board discussed safety issues raised by representatives of the neighboring town of Wilton, related to guests driving on the local roads at night after attending an event where alcohol may be served. All events with alcohol must have a licensed bartender, and drinks are cut off by 9:30 p.m.

The board considered requiring a police presence at events, but ultimately agreed the other conditions were sufficient.

“I think that’s a little excessive – a lot excessive,” said member James Stein when the board discussed whether to require a police officer for events larger than 50 people where alcohol was served.

Food and drinks, including alcohol, must be consumed within the barn.

The board also included a requirement that the other homestead buildings are to be used only as permanent or long-term residences, not as short-term rentals for event staff or guests.The only building to be used for events is the barn.

The board approved the special exception, with conditions, unanimously. The board agreed to meet May 19 to ratify the final notice of decision.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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