A dispute that has roiled West Stockbridge for months just might have an amicable end in sight.
Complex circumstances had put two renowned downtown businesses at cross-purposes. The Foundry has been holding its well-attended live events outside due to COVID fears. They’ve been a success for the arts venue, but have also complicated things for the abutting Truc Orient Express, a family-run Vietnamese restaurant that has served the community for more than four decades.
The eatery has struggled with noise, traffic access and other issues on weekends when The Foundry’s live events partially took place on Merritt Way, a private road that also happens to be the only point of auto access to the Orient Express, which has been landlocked from public roads since the Harris Street bridge was closed to motor vehicles decades ago.
At the West Stockbridge Select Board’s Thursday meeting, town officials took the sensible, if long overdue, course of action. The board issued a special permit to The Foundry — a requirement under town bylaws for businesses operating as commercial amusement that the town neglected to require of The Foundry for months as the dispute festered over the summer. With the permit comes some conditions that put reasonable restrictions on The Foundry’s outdoor performances to mitigate the impact on the Orient Express’ weekend business. The Foundry must keep noise from exceeding 60 decibels as measured at the property line and keep attendees from trespassing onto the Orient Express property. Meanwhile, The Foundry must not control Merritt Way, which is the only artery for motor vehicles to reach the restaurant.
It’s good to see these common-sense rules in place that will hopefully allow The Foundry to continue flourishing without preventing Truc Orient Express from doing so. The Eagle editorial board previously called for local officials to do their due diligence and use the requisite permitting process to establish these sorts of ground rules instead of letting two businesses fend for themselves against each other in a conflict the town had a hand in creating. If they had done so in a timely fashion, the conflict likely could have been curbed much earlier, but better late than never.
Now, a tightknit community can begin to heal the rift that was opened by this tiff, and the remarks of one of the business’ proprietors leave us hopeful that this healing can happen soon. Truc Nguyen, who operates the restaurant her family has owned for 42 years, spoke at Thursday’s Select Board meeting, calling for The Foundry to receive the special permit and welcoming owner Amy Brentano and her family to the Orient Express for a meal while expressing hope to attend a future Foundry performance.
It’s heartening to see that, even when neighbors have their differences, they can still be neighborly with each other. Back in June, The Eagle editorial board commended the two businesses’ owners for striking a temporary compromise soon after the issue arose. It’s even more commendable that this neighborly instinct persevered for months even as the town dragged its heels on meaningfully addressing the problem as two local businesses seeking recovery from COVID downturns got caught up in a problem compounded by official inaction.
It’s a reminder of the unique sense of Berkshire community that can shine through times of hardship. We hope that patience and grace is not in vain, and local leaders learn a valuable lesson about the costs of apathy in addressing the growing pains of a small town.