RICHMOND — A historically authentic renovation of a two-frame barn on the scenic Balderdash Cellars farm site overlooking Richmond Pond is set for completion by next spring to host weddings and other celebrations, as well as concerts, wine tastings and culinary specials.
The restoration by David E. Lanoue Inc. Building & Design is intricate, delicate and complex, beginning with the piece-by-piece disassembly of the two-section barn. The older frame dates from the late 1700s, Lanoue explained. The “newer” addition is believed to be from the mid-1800s, though he stressed that that precise dating is difficult without scientific analysis.
The dissected barn is being trucked to his workshop in the Van Deusenville section of Great Barrington, where the restoration will be crafted during the winter, Lanoue said.
Then, the repaired sections will be returned back to the winery for reassembly next spring. Lanoue’s firm has restored at least 50 barns, the oldest dating from 1693, as determined by dendrochronology, a scientific process that dates the timber through tree-ring growth. He uses dry oak and white pine to match the original construction.
Lanoue’s dedication to handcrafted reconstruction stems from “a sense of history, liking old things and being able to tell the difference between something of quality and something machine-made. The work agrees with me. It’s not a bad way to spend the day.”
Christian Hanson, co-owner of the farm and winery with his wife, Donna, declined to reveal the cost of the restoration. But the completed barn will be central to the 23-acre farm’s business plan that includes hosting up to 35 weddings a year as well as wine and food tastings with live music.
According to the board’s revised special permit approved on Feb. 24, exterior amplified music is limited to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, but drums, bass guitars, electric guitars and horns are not allowed.
To meet the concerns of some neighbors from Richmond Shores, outdoor performances require noise-limiting “acoustical curtains” at the stage.
Once the renovated barn is reinstalled, the revised permit allows interior amplified music, behind closed doors, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, Christian Hanson said.
Nevertheless, four neighbors sued the town, its three Select Board members and the Hansons last March in an effort to overturn the amended special permit.
The complaint filed at Berkshire Superior Court called the Select Board decision “arbitrary and capricious, erroneous and in excess of the Board of Selectmen’s authority.”
The civil lawsuit asks the court to bar Balderdash from holding any farm functions involving music. The neighbors also seek a requirement that the building inspector “monitor and enforce the sound levels generated by any farm function activities.”
The lawsuit filed by Richmond Shores residents Alex Rosenblum, Alison Cole, Peter Miller and Miles Garfinkel, targets the town and Select Board members Alan Hanson (no relation), Roger Manzolini and Neal Pilson as defendants.
The complaint, revised April 8, adds Primadonna LLC, the company formed by the Hansons, and Berkshire Winery LLC, doing business as Balderdash Cellars, as defendants. The neighbors stated that they have been harmed by the Select Board’s special permit revision because “it deprives them of the quiet enjoyment of their properties and enables conduct and activities that generate excessive noise.”
Christian Hanson told The Eagle last week that he anticipates a favorable legal outcome and stated that, overall, he feels welcomed and supported by most Richmond residents. Despite the legal battle, he added, he has no regrets about having relocated his business from Pittsfield three years ago.
The Hansons and their companies are represented by attorney Alexandra Glover of Lazan Glover & Puciloski in Great Barrington.
“Balderdash is operating under the permit issued by the Select Board, and thus its winery and ‘farm functions’ may and will move forward without interruption, regardless of the lawsuit,” she has told The Eagle.
Representing the town, attorney Elisabeth C. Goodman, a partner at Cain Hibbard & Myers in Pittsfield, stated that “the Board of Selectmen, after numerous hearings, issued a detailed special permit decision with conditions for the operation of farm events at Balderdash. The board undertook to hire a noise expert and incorporated recommendations from the expert into its decision, including requiring the landowner to install a large sound curtain.”
“Four residents sued to annul this decision or have the decision amended to require the erecting of sound barriers, which the Select Board in fact included in the permit,” Goodman added. “It is not clear what the plaintiffs wanted to accomplish by filing this lawsuit, but now that will have to be determined by the court.”
The Balderdash property includes 2.5 acres at 79 State Road and nearly 21 acres at 81 State Road.
The winery’s business plan has been scrutinized at multiple Planning Board and Select Board meetings over the past three years. The town’s original bylaw allowed a winery as an agricultural use, but not the presentation of of outdoor events. The Planning Board’s revised bylaw regulates various events and concerts as “farm functions” providing additional income “to promote the sustainability of farming, enhance our community and preserve open space.”
The neighbors’ complaint asserts that events held at Balderdash after the Select Board granted a special permit in July 2019 involved “loud music and large crowds and have interfered with the plaintiffs’ right to quiet enjoyment of their homes.”
They also allege that the original noise-control conditions for the special permit were “so vague in their terms as to be unenforceable and have not abated the noise coming from the property during events.”
Glover, the attorney for the Hansons, stated that “the town went the extra mile to protect the abutters here. The town retained an acoustic engineer who produced a comprehensive report after testing the acoustics on site. The result of the testing was actually positive for Balderdash. Since the lawsuit was filed before the new conditions were implemented, it seems premature for the plaintiffs to take issue with sound that they believe they used to hear in the past.”