RICHMOND — Balderdash Cellars, the winery relocated from a Pittsfield commercial building basement to a 25-acre farm just south of the city line, near Richmond Pond, has won conditional approval from the Select Board to renovate a deteriorated barn on the property to host events, primarily indoors, including music.

As one of a mere handful of businesses in the rural town, Balderdash and its owners, Christian and Donna Hanson, have been welcomed warmly by many residents. But, some others, particularly residents of the nearby lake, have objected to noise from outdoor entertainment events.

In addition to the barn, the property purchased in spring 2018 for $475,000 includes a new 5,000-square-foot, two-level tasting room/wine-making facility that can hold 100 visitors, and a farmhouse with a basement brewery. Hanson has explained his move to the bucolic setting by pointing out that “people who come to this area often come from the city, and they don’t want to go back to a city.”

From the start, the owners also planned to use the spacious setting for weddings and for family-friendly concerts on weekends.

At a recent Select Board virtual public hearing, many supporters and several critics turned out to speak their mind as the board members reviewed a proposed special permit for Primadonna LLC, Christian Hanson’s business.

The permit would combine the existing farm function bylaw for the property with the plan for a retooled barn that would allow events there, including performances, and minimize, if not eliminate, the noise bothering some neighbors.

“We’re trying to be respectful of the neighborhood, the community and also our business, to try to make sure we can put the two in harmony,” Hanson explained.

He stated that weddings held in tents that “have generated a fair amount of noise” would be eliminated. Instead, the renovated barn, dating from the 1700s, as well as the winery, would host all events.

“Our goal is to cease doing outdoor, noisy, tented events in the evening, a win-win for all of us,” Hanson added. “It minimizes noise for farm functions and also preserves a very historic building for the town.”

Select Board Chairman Alan Hanson, as well as members Roger Manzolini and Neal Pilson, immediately voiced support for the plan as part of a new farm functions special permit.

Town Counsel Elisabeth Goodman pointed out that all business activities at Balderdash are subject to the farm functions permit, requiring conditions based on a professional engineer’s noise study dealing with outdoor amplified sound.

“It’s a complicated situation … with the noise issues last summer,” Pilson acknowledged, while other residents view Balderdash as “an important asset for the town and the community.”

The proposed new one-year permit, available for public review on the town website and subject to annual review by the town, includes an “acoustical curtain” and a limit to three musicians per event.

Other provisions include:

• Wine tastings and other public events, as well as private events such as weddings and other celebrations, are to be held in the renovated barn or in the existing outside amphitheater from noon to 8 p.m. daily, limited to 100 people per event. Larger events require a one-day special permit issued by the Select Board.

• Outdoor amplified music would be limited to 89 decibels, measured no more than 3 feet in front of speakers.

• A continuous, 180-degree acoustical curtain system, complying with the noise study’s recommendation this past summer, would be installed behind the musicians.

• All speakers and amplifiers would have to face west, away from Richmond Pond and a neighboring property. Drums, bass guitars, electric guitars and horns are prohibited, and exterior amplified music is banned after 7 p.m.

• Clapping would be permitted, but not “shouting, yelling, hooting or whistling.”


From the start, Balderdash Cellars owners Christian and Donna Hanson planned to use a deteriorated barn on the property for family-friendly concerts on weekends. The couple have received conditional approval for a retooled barn that would allow events there, including performances, and minimize, if not eliminate, the noise bothering some neighbors.

The proposed permit is designed to “find common ground and a way for Balderdash to continue and prosper and to also address the concerns of some of our residents who have been quite vocal in their comments about noise that is disturbing to them,” said Pilson, who drafted the language with Goodman.

“Everybody recognizes and has skin in the game towards making Balderdash a quieter place, and the best way to accomplish that is the only thing that needs to be resolved,” said Manzolini, a selectman since 1996.

During public comment, Richmond Shores resident Miles Garfinkel expressed the hope that the new permit would “alleviate the impact on our community and, hopefully, we’ll have a quiet summer, next year and beyond.”

Bartlett’s Orchard co-owner Cindy Bartlett stated that the Hansons “have the community of Richmond at heart. As a business owner, especially with what we’re going through right now, the more restrictions we put on business, the harder it is for that business to thrive. They strive to do things the right way, the best way they possibly can. Try to make it as easy for them as you possibly can.”

A neighbor, Mark Lessner, said he “barely heard any noise at all” last summer.

“From our perspective right next door, the music, the sound was absolutely fine,” said new resident E.E. Winters. “It was always very soft, gentle, pleasant. I welcome Balderdash being there, I think it’s terrific.”

Another nearby year-round resident, John Reynolds, said he could hear the music, but “not in an obtrusive way; it’s not bothersome.” He said jet skis and boats on Richmond Pond “are far worse than anything at Balderdash. We want to voice our support for allowing outdoor music. We do not find it’s a problem.”

“It’s a great place to go with family and friends, it’s classy, clean and well-run,” said Jonathan Ballan. “The music’s not excessively loud. It’s a fun place run by extremely nice, committed, community-oriented people, and it’s a real credit to Richmond. I hope you don’t impose conditions that really destroy the heart of what is a wonderful place.”

The Select Board will resume the public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Meanwhile, as proposed by Manzolini, the board voted 3-0 to allow Christian Hanson to begin designing the barn renovation by including it under the terms of the farm function permit.

“There’s no one on the planet Earth who doesn’t want that renovated,” Manzolini said.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at, on Twitter

@BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.