Vassalboro planners approve new business, review planned expansion of another

by Mary Grow

At their May 7 meeting, Vassalboro Planning Board members approved a new business in North Vassalboro and reviewed preliminary expansion plans at Sidereal Brewery, at 771 Cross Hill Road. Sidereal owner James D’Angelo is likely to present a formal application at the board’s June 4 meeting.

Ray Breton, owner of two small commercial buildings on the east side of Main Street in North Vassalboro, presented Paula Stratton’s application to use 913 Main Street as a studio for her business, Passion Photography Maine.

Board members unanimously approved the application, which explained that Straton planned no exterior or other changes that would affect neighbors or the neighborhood.

Breton initially applied on behalf of Stratton at the March board meeting. Board members rejected the application as lacking specific information.

Following up on that experience, board member and former codes officer Paul Mitnik recommended the board be more strict about requiring applicants to fill out forms as directed in town ordinances. For example, he said, each application should have a scale drawing of what is proposed; many do not.

Codes officer Jason Lorrain said he would help applicants meet requirements by reviewing applications with them and pointing out deficiencies.

D’Angelo, accompanied by sons and employees, came to the meeting by request, in response to reports of changes on the Sidereal Brewery property.

He explained that he was seeking the board’s “guidance” on his proposed “master plan” for the Cross Hill Road business, which opened in October 2022. He described the present set-up, which includes the brewery building, a residential building, an outdoor firepit area and a bocce court.

Proposed changes include:

— Moving outdoor activities – the bocce court (around which he plans to plant fruit trees) and the firepit with chairs around it – to a graded area behind the brewery;
— Extending the driveway to a site where he wants to build a second house and a four-bay storage garage for tractors, other equipment and brewery supplies;
— Creating a turn-around for travel trailers at the end of the driveway;
— Renaming the driveway Sidereal Road, so that on-line directions can identify it and customers will no longer mistakenly turn into neighbors’ driveways; and
— Applying to the State of Maine for a full kitchen license to allow indoor cooking, without enlarging the existing building, David D’Angelo said.

Making the driveway a road is a 911 issue, not in the planning board’s jurisdiction, Mitnik said. Discussion of the rest of the plan revolved around the definition of “expansion” in town ordinances. Expansion requires an amended permit.

D’Angelo said he wants to relocate the firepit and bocce court immediately, for this summer’s trade. Fearing delay, he offered to scale back the plan to something board members could approve promptly in June.

Board chairman Virgina Brackett urged him to apply for the whole plan. “We’re not putting limits on your business; we just want to know what’s going on,” she told D’Angelo.

Neighbors Peter and MaryBeth Soule said conditions on the original brewery permit have been ignored. The required buffers do not exist, though trees have been planted, died and been replanted; and a required noise report has not been done.

The Soules asked for copies of the paperwork D’Angelo submits for the June 4 board meeting. D’Angelo said he would provide them. Brackett said there will be time for public comment when the board reviews D’Angelo’s application.

MaryBeth Soule asked whether the board can approve amendments to a permit before all original conditions have been met.

The June 4 meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the town office meeting room.


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