DeSisto developers told to get permit for on-site office or close it
STOCKBRIDGE — The developers of a potential resort at the Beckwith Estate, the former DeSisto School property, have been ordered by the town's building inspector to stop using an office on the residentially zoned site to promote their 37 Interlaken project until they get the necessary permits.
Building Commissioner Ned Baldwin issued a violation notice to property owner Patrick Sheehan recently, pointed out that he is violating the town's zoning bylaws that regulate commercial activity in a residential area at 35-37 Interlaken Road (Route 183).
Baldwin ordered Sheehan to apply for and obtain a building permit and a certificate of occupancy by the end of this month to allow the operation of an office for commercial purposes.
The notice also outlined the penalties for zoning bylaw violations, which may include filing of a criminal complaint in District Court or a civil complaint in Superior Court, "and/or the issuing of `zoning tickets' by non-criminal complaint."
Baldwin's order came in response to a complaint letter filed by attorney Richard Dohoney, who represents a group of neighbors opposed to the potential resort project on the property of the 1890s estate.
"This is just a technical issue that was raised by a small group of abutters in an effort to try to hamper our efforts to move this project forward in a productive and transparent manner and to stop our communication with the general public about the project," stated 37 Interlaken Managing Partner Tony Guthrie.
"We are in the process of filing the paperwork necessary to correct this issue," he added. "We continue to be committed to working with the Stockbridge community to permit and build this project."
In an interview on Monday, Baldwin confirmed that 37 Interlaken LLC has taken out a change-of-use permit to utilize the site as a single-family dwelling, "which they are well on their way to doing." The inspector said he granted the permit, and a certificate of occupancy is pending following upcoming inspections.
"They're allowed to use it as a single-family dwelling for residential use, and that's it," said Baldwin.
"This is a substantive issue," Dohoney said in a phone interview. "The owner has demonstrated an unwillingness to follow the town's zoning regulations on the books."
He asserted that an office in a purely residential zone is only allowed as an "accessory use" for a single-family residence.
"Based on the facts we know now, we don't think it can be lawfully used as a home office."
Dohoney also expressed concern about the "large-scale commercial events" that have been held by the 37 Interlaken group to promote the resort concept, including several open houses and a "Family Fun Day" in July.
According to Dohoney, those have been held "in violation of zoning ordinances."
No special permit application has been filed with the Select Board yet for the proposed full-service resort, which would include 40 to 50 rooms and a restaurant in the restored and expanded mansion on the property two miles south of Tanglewood. The complex would include 139 flexible hotel-condominium suites in six new buildings adjacent to the inn, which could be rented out by the owners through the hotel. Eventually, 34 clustered single-family houses would be built in the rear, wooded section of the property.
The project's investment would total $150 million, according to the developers, and the resort would include a working farm as part of an "agri-hood" setting.
In his letter of complaint to Baldwin, who is also the town's zoning enforcement officer, Dohoney wrote that the property is occupied and controlled by 37 Interlaken Road LLC, a for-profit, limited liability company engaged in real estate development.
He stated that the resort project is not permitted within the site's two-acre and four-acre residential zones and that the developers are seeking a change in the town's zoning bylaws.
"The premises are not currently occupied for residential purposes and currently no certificate of occupancy for residential purposes has been issued," Dohoney wrote.
In addition to the office used by the developers, Dohoney listed the signs promoting the project and depicting the proposed hotel as commercial activity not authorized in the residential zones.
He also cited a "Tri-Town Chamber After-Hours" event held on May 10, open houses on June 2 and 3, and the "Family Fun Day" on July 22 as violations of allowed uses in residential areas.
On behalf of his clients, Dohoney asked Baldwin for enforcement action, including but not limited to an order to cease and desist any use of the premises except for single-family residential purposes.
Dohoney, of the Pittsfield firm Donovan O'Connor & Dodig, is the attorney for the neighborhood opposition group that includes Stuart and Susie Hirshfield, Charles and Barbara Kenny, Allen and Valerie Hyman, James and Jackie Mann, Craig and Rosalie Berger, Ken and Linda Frank and Mickey Rabina.
Contact correspondent Clarence Fanto at email@example.com or 413-637-2551.
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