Stowe’s development review board Tuesday made no decision on whether Stowe Cider can keep the music playing.
Stowe Cider’s request to host outdoor music in its garden space — the former West Branch Gallery sculpture garden — is on hold until after the board rules on an appeal by a local homeowner.
The local cidery’s outdoor area expanded during the pandemic, and this spring it asked to alter its zoning permit to allow live music in the garden in the summer and indoors in the winter. The request was unanimously approved in May by the town’s development review board, and it officially took effect June 7.
At Tuesday’s meeting, David Gellis, the Stowe resident whose appeal prompted the board to reconsider its initial approval of the zoning change, reiterated claims that noise from concerts in the cidery’s garden greatly impacted his quality of life.
“This isn’t about background music or about community events where people talk," a neighbor supporting Gellis said. "When we’re sitting on our back deck having a normal conversation, we have to go inside, close both the windows and doors and turn up the music or the TV to drown out the noise.”
Though Gellis was the only person whose appeal was officially considered, the board heard testimony from several neighbors who characterized the noise produced by concerts as “unfair” and “obnoxious” to relatively pleasing, but all agree decibel levels needed to be controlled.
One homeowner testified via video from Montreal. While he has not been to Stowe since the coronavirus pandemic began, he still voiced his potential concern about live music.
An older neighbor supporting Gellis also said that the potential threat of “sleep spasms, anxiety and other health issues” meant that the board must impose decibel restrictions on the proposed zoning changes at Stowe Cider.
Gellis, along with others who offered testimony, said while he enjoyed and supported live music in Stowe, it needed to be managed so as not to encroach on his ability to enjoy his private home.
A public relations intermediary submitted a statement attributed to Gellis prior to his in-person testimony at the board meeting.
“I sincerely hope that Stowe Cider continues to enjoy their permit,” the statement read. “In fact, if they can provide a commitment to the community to keep the music at levels in line with international norms and other local noise ordinances since Stowe does not have one, I happily and on the record retract any request for limits to frequency or time of music.”
Gellis also said in the statement that he was primarily concerned for the well-being of his 8-year-old daughter and was simply looking for a compromise from Stowe Cider regarding decibel level and volume.
The board also heard from supporters of Stowe Cider and held a lengthy back-and-forth with Mark Ray, an owner at Stowe Cider, about mitigation measures already in place and the various decibel measurements he’s made.
Though the public portion of the meeting lasted several hours, the board retreated into a closed deliberative session, and issued no decision on the Stowe Cider permit application.
According to Stowe zoning director Sarah McShane, the board will render a written decision within 45 days.
Correction 7/23/2021: Quotes attributed to David Gellis at a development review board meeting to discuss Stowe Cider’s proposed zoning changes in the initially published version of this article were misattributed and were actually spoken by neighbors speaking in support of his appeal.