Great Barrington Fairgrounds developers granted special permit


GREAT BARRINGTON -- Following about 85 minutes of discussion, the selectmen on Tuesday night voted 4-0 to grant a special permit to the developers of the Great Barrington Fairgrounds.

The board had been wrestling with the application through three meetings over the course of a month.

The developers, a consortium of residents headed by Bart and Janet Ellsbach, were seeking permission to convert the use of the fairgrounds to a community center. Previous to their application, the fairgrounds had no designation, and was abandoned. Although the term "community center" did not exactly fit what was planned, the board believed it was the closest term in the town's zoning table.

In addition, the developers sought permission to do work in a flood plain, in which the entire 57-acre parcel resides.

The work will include renovation of the cow shed, grandstand and a building on the site. Space would also be created for a dog-walking park, community garden, gazebo and farmers market. A solar array is also planned.

The issue was not whether to approve the application; the selectmen were philosophically in favor of the plan. The conundrum was how to allow the developers to move forward, when many of their plans, contingent on financing, were not fully shaped.

The answer, as the board saw it, was to approve the overall plan and attach caveats that would require the developers to return to the board to revisit the special permit as the plans unfolded.

Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said she believed that road would be sufficient. She lauded the developers for their cooperation.

"There has been a lot of cooperation and a ton of communication," she said.

In addition, the selectmen agreed to require the developers to work with the police department on traffic control before potential high-traffic events.

"I think we should reserve the right, as things expand down there, to require a traffic study," said selectman Stephen Bannon.

As the public comment portion of the hearing was completed at the first session on June 9, there was no public input on Tuesday.

Rather, the board and Tabakin spent much of their time reading their findings into the public record.

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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