Business & Economy

Stowe board promises quick decision on outdoor music at Stowe Cider

Employees fill cases with cans at Stowe Cider on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Updated at 5:15 p.m.

Stowe’s Development Review Board is promising a quick decision on whether it will impose new conditions on a popular business before it is allowed to offer outdoor music again. 

Time is of the essence for Stowe Cider, which had begun offering outdoor music in June. Its permit was suspended when a neighbor asked the board to reconsider.

The board seemed conscious at a hearing Tuesday night that if the cidery is allowed to host music outside, it needs to be able to take advantage of the summer. 

For two hours, the board heard testimony from about 25 residents in the hearing room at the town hall, and a few people commenting via Zoom.

The board granted a permit for food trucks and live music to Stowe Cider on June 7, but suspended the permit when David Gellis, a resident upset by the noise levels, asked the board to reconsider.

Stowe does not have a noise ordinance. 

Gellis, who lives 2 miles away, in the woods overlooking the golf course, told board members he grew frustrated when Mark Ray, the owner of Stowe Cider, promised he would work on the noise levels, but Gellis found they got worse.

Gellis declined to comment to VTDigger after the hearing, but on Wednesday, issued a statement. “We all put forth a respectful request for compromise with the business owner, as all felt the sound levels are beyond the norm,” the statement said. “We hope Stowe Cider and the [Development Review Board] work together to ensure that the events can thrive and that residents can enjoy their homes.”

Gellis’s next-door neighbor, Matt Ottmer, who calculates that he lives 0.7 miles from Stowe Cider as the crow files, told the board his family had not encountered any noise levels like the ones emanating from Stowe Cider during the six outdoor musical events it was allowed to hold before its license was suspended. 

“When we’re sitting on our back deck, we have to go inside, close the windows and doors and turn on the TV and music to drown out” the music from Stowe Cider, Ottmer said.

The controversy is pitting some neighbors who find the noise too loud and would like to enjoy their homes in quiet against a business trying to innovate and create jobs in the wake of the pandemic. 

“This whole process has shut down the garden, which has really affected our business and the jobs,” Ray told the board. “There are a couple of nights that appear to be a concern. It isn’t every night. There aren’t rock concerts four nights a week.” 

One person whose name could not be heard warned that if the town cracked down on Stowe Cider, 15 other music venues in town could face restrictions, hurting the town’s reputation as a center for entertainment.

At times, the hearing became emotional, though residents remained respectful of one another. After Ray’s wife, Cara, argued that her husband had worked hard to accommodate concerns about noise, another woman whose name could not be heard and who wants the music turned down said: “I don’t want to fight with you. We’ve been through a shit year.” 

The woman suggested that maybe she should take Ray up on her offer to those gathered that they meet at Stowe Cider to have a drink.

Speaking over Zoom, Stowe resident Kelly Shaw warned the board against revoking a permit when Stowe Cider has not broken any town ordinances or conditions of the permit. 

“They didn’t break any of the conditions that you set,” Shaw said.

Another resident speaking over Zoom, Missy Merrell Burgess, who said she lives within a mile of Stowe Cider, also defended the business.

“We very frequently hear the music on our deck and thoroughly enjoy it,” she said.

Merrill Burgess suggested that if some neighbors are bothered by the noise, it could be because the wind is blowing the wrong way.

 “Shut your windows, go inside,” she advised. “Be a neighbor. Don’t shut him down. That’s not the way we do business here in Stowe.”

This report was updated to add a statement from David Gellis.

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Fred Thys

About Fred

Fred Thys covers business and the economy for VTDigger. He is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, and graduated from Williams College with a degree in political science. He is the recipient of the Radio, Television, and Digital News Association's Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Reporting and for Enterprise Reporting. Fred has worked at The Journal of Commerce, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, NBC News, and WBUR, and has written for Le Matin, The Dallas Morning News, and The American Homefront Project.

Email: [email protected]

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