The Planning and Zoning Commission continued the public hearing for a proposal brought forth by Friends of Ambler Farm, Inc. at the commission’s meeting Monday night.
The applicant’s attorney, Douglas Bayer, said they are not looking to change the parameters on parking, noise or lighting in the current special permit.
“What we’re asking to do is really eliminate the distinction between nonprofit events and private events,” he said
Bayer added from a land-use perspective there was no difference between an event with 100 people run by a nonprofit versus one run by a private entity.
“You still have 100 people on the farm, you still have cars associated with that,” Bayer said.
The current special permit allows for Ambler Farm to have six special events per year with no more than 100 people allowed. The applicant looks to increase this to a maximum of 10 special events a year. The proposal also asks that other events, such as antiques shows, craft shows and weddings, be included as a list of possible events.
Ambler Farm’s executive director, Robin Clune, said the farm will always be accessible even with an increase of events. She added that they have no formal complaints from anyone in regards to parking or noise. She also contacted police to ask if any complaints had been made.
“They confirmed that over the past 10 years they have received no formal complaints with regards to noise or parking,” she said.
Clune said based on her experience she doesn’t think if approved they’ll get more people with even larger events.
“A lot of people are turned off by the fact that the Carriage Barn can only hold 120 people,” she said. “A lot of people that want to have their event need more space than that.”
She added that the farm typically draws a person who wants a special type of event.
“We’re not seen as the big flashy place where they can do anything,” Clune said.
Michele Dunn, a resident of Ambler Lane, said the next step for Ambler Farm is to change from a nonprofit to a public-private partnership.
“This will clearly further open the door to commercialization of the property and further destruction of the neighborhood,” she said.
Dunn added that if the commission made this change the farm will be a destination for the entire tri-state area to come to well-publicized antiques fairs.
“In the original land-use debate on this property one of the major concerns was exactly that,” she said.
David Waters, a Deerfield Road resident, said he was in support of the application. Waters said the subject of nonprofit events versus private events wasn’t necessarily a zoning issue.
“Zoning governs uses not users,” he said.
Waters added that both nonprofit events and corporate events can have similar parties.
“If you drive by, you really can’t tell if it’s a nonprofit doing the event or it’s a corporate event,” he said.
Waters added it would be important for the commission to keep its finger on the pulse. If approved, it should see how the increase of events is handled. Waters said the increase from six to 10 events is not dramatic.
“I would suggest to you that it is not a drastic increase and it is something that you should consider,” he said. “I think that it is appropriate.”
The public hearing will continue at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s meeting on March 11.