Board OKs zoning change

  • Mason Zoning Board members Bob Bergeron, Chair Bill Fritz and Guy Daniello deliberate on an application by Marty’s Driving Range on Wednesday.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Nicole Ruggiero, left, listens to deliberations by the Zoning Board on Wednesday night.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/7/2016 6:13:23 PM

The Mason Zoning Board has given its approval for a special exception to allow outdoor concerts at Marty’s Driving Range.

This is not the end of the approval process for the business, which will still be required to go through a site plan review process with the Planning Board and get a retroactive building permit for the stage on the property, but is a big step toward allowing Marty’s to restart its concert series as of Memorial Day 2017.

“I feel like I have a lot of pent-up emotions that I can release now,” said Nicole Ruggiero, who owns and runs Marty’s with her father, Martin Ruggiero. “This is so many months of stress.”

The special exception allows Marty’s to hold up to three outdoor entertainment events a week during the season between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Marty’s used to hold similar events before getting a cease and desist order from the town based on parking concerns, noise complaints, and issues with police details not being paid. The Ruggieros submitted a warrant article to allow outdoor entertainment events in the GRAF district by special exception, which passed in a special town meeting in June by a margin of about 59 percent.

On many points it was a split decision. In reference to several of the individual requirements for a special exception, the Zoning Board split its decision, with members Guy Daniello and Bob Bergeron generally voting against granting the exception.

However, Bergeron and Daniello were outvoted by fellow board members, who argued that the town vote in June indicated that the majority of people in Mason did see outdoor concert events as fitting in with the town’s character, and that restrictions that the board had placed on the noise levels were sufficient to protect neighbors.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the board also accepted plans to regulate areas where alcohol can be consumed during concerts and the noise level. The site plan identifies two points at which the sound must always be at a level of 75 decibels or lower.

The board discussed lowering the noise requirement, with Daniello pointing to other town’s ordinances and information from the World Health Organization that suggest that noise over a level of 55 decibels can be an annoyance, but ultimately the majority of the board was satisfied with the 75-decibel limit. Daniello also pursued making the limit applicable at the property border, rather than two fixed points, but ultimately did not move to make that change.

The board approved a plan to allow drinking in the area where concert-goers would listen to music, restricting alcohol use behind the stage and in the parking lot, forbidding alcohol being brought in from outside, and setting a last call requirement at a half hour before the end of events. The board agreed to adopt the conditions, with only Daniello opposed, believing they were not restrictive enough.

Among the other conditions of the approval, the Ruggieros must obtain a retroactive building permit for the concert stage, and provide a $1,000 bond which will be used to pay police details if the Ruggieros fail to pay the bill within five business days.

Nicole Ruggiero said that she will be submitting a plan for the site plan review process at the Planning Board quickly to continue to full approval before next spring.

Several abutters to the Driving Range property have objected to the concerts, and have even filed a suit against the town of Mason disputing the results of the special town meeting that allows outdoor entertainment in the GRAF district. The abutters filed a motion with the Hillsborough Superior Court to put a stop order on any applications related to the new ordinance, which would include the Ruggieros, until the matter has been ruled on at the court. However, Judge Charles S. Temple ruled on Oct. 26 that the abutters did not prove an immediate threat to their right to use their property, as the ordinance would not allow any concerts until Memorial Day weekend, seven months away.

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


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