With 3 special permits granted, Tree House plans are brewing in South Deerfield

  • Tree House Brewing received approval to begin steps toward opening a new location at the site of the former Channing Bete Co. on Routes 5 and 10 in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • The Deerfield Zoning Board of Appeals has approved three special permits for Tree House Brewing’s first phase of opening at its new location in the former Channing Bete Co. building on Routes 5 and 10. The site has recently been used as a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, pictured. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/6/2021 12:33:34 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Charlton-based Tree House Brewing has been given the go-ahead it needs to begin its first phase of opening at the former Channing Bete Co. building on Routes 5 and 10.

The three special permits that the Deerfield Zoning Board of Appeals granted Tree House Brewing, which pertain specifically to the first of three phases of opening, include the change of use of the property to a Major Commercial Project; replacing signs; and accepting the height of the building, as its current height supersedes what is currently allowed by the town’s Major Commercial Project bylaws.

A timeline for the project — which has now received Planning Board and ZBA approval for its first phase — was not presented during last week’s joint meeting of the ZBA and Select Board.

Don Dubendorf, an attorney representing Tree House Brewing, explained the plans for the first phase, which include creating a brewery and warehouse operation and establishing a curbside “On the Fly” pickup service.

The only change to the exterior of the building in the first phase will be the addition of a six-vehicle portico, he noted, where “On the Fly” customers can park to have their orders brought out.

“None of the construction of this portico eliminates or affects any of the existing parking numbers on site,” Dubendorf said. “There’s also five trees that are being removed because of the addition of the portico; those trees are being replaced on a one-to-one basis.”

As for the signs, Tree House Brewing proposed having a number of signs that exceed the cap allowed in the town bylaws.

“There are two signs on the property,” Dubendorf said. “One is a free-standing sign. It will comply as proposed with all requirements of the bylaw, but for size. It’s proposed to be 90 square feet, as opposed to the cap at 32 square feet.”

He pointed to the setback of the sign from the road, which exceeds the normal 25-foot setback for a free-standing sign.

Ultimately, all three special permits for Phase 1 were approved, though not before a lengthy discussion on whether to also approve plans for Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the project, under the condition the company return for review before those phases start.

“What we said to the Planning Board is that we would ask this board to condition its approval of our special permit for the major commercial permit by requiring us in each instance to go back to the Planning Board for site plan review for the uses we’d commence in (Phases) 2 and 3,” Dubendorf explained.

As part of its application for a special permit, Tree House Brewing included subcategories of proposed uses in subsequent phases, such as retail sales, beer production classes, and concerts or shows.

“There are two things in land use you want to pay attention to,” Dubendorf said. “One is that you want to lay all your cards on the table. We’d like to have as many of those permitted as possible; we’re happy to come back to this board and have you review Phases 2 and 3 if need be, so you have control over those and are not feeling like you are being irresponsible with what you’re doing.”

ZBA Chairman Bernie Sadoski said he wasn’t comfortable taking that approach without guidance from one of the town lawyers.

Adam Sokoloski, a member of the ZBA, recommended moving forward with approving Phase 1 to prevent holding the applicant up.

“It’s an existing structure and Phase 1 is very limited impact,” he said. “I think the applicant has gone the full length … and I think they’re being pretty upfront.”

Dubendorf agreed to request that the board withdraw the applicant’s requests pertaining to Phase 2 and 3 and instead solely vote on the special permits for Phase 1.

Select Board member David Wolfram commended Tree House Brewing for “putting all their cards on the table.”

“In reality, they want Phase 1 approved,” he said. “And they want us to know what Phase 2 and Phase 3 are going to be, without surprising us down the road.”

In addition to the discussion over the subsequent phases, there was also concern for the potential of traffic issues as a result of the brewery’s plans for curbside pickup.

“I have some concerns for the comparison numbers they’ve provided for traffic, just being familiar with traffic patterns they have in Charlton,” said ZBA member Jennifer Remillard, noting the property’s location on Routes 5 and 10, and its proximity to Interstate 91.

Dubendorf said the company has learned a great deal about traffic management through the brewery’s location in Charlton.

“There are several layers for how they control traffic on site,” he said. “All of the transactions are paid for and scheduled online. There’s no drive-in ad-hoc; you must have an order … to be served.”

Members of the public who had been involved in the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Tree House Brewing commented on the minimal traffic they witnessed.

“During my experience there, we had 700 people come into Tree House to get vaccinations,” said Tolly Stark, speaking on behalf of the community group Deerfield for Responsible Development. “I was extremely surprised at how minimal the traffic was … and how amazing the flow went with people coming and going.”

Speaking as a Select Board member, Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness — who also commented on the minimal traffic during the clinic — said the board is “very excited” to have the brewery open in South Deerfield.

“They have been excellent neighbors already,” Shores Ness said. “They have graciously allowed us to use their warehouse facility, both for storage of school furniture … and also for our COVID clinic.”

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