By Leslie H. Dixon
NORWAY – North Norway may be host to two “wedding barns” if the Planning Board approves a plan next month to allow the conversion of an historic barn into a site for weddings.
The Planning Board will meet again on January 14, beginning at 7 p.m. in the town office, where they are expected to take up a proposal again to operate a wedding barn on Morse Road.
Members of the Planning Board agreed earlier this month that not all abutters of 107 Morse Road were properly notified of the Dec. 10 public hearing. Although dozen’s of residents showed up to question the petitioner Peter Ulrickson – board members said no decision could be made and the application cannot be considered complete until they were sure all abutters were notified and had the opportunity to ask questions.
The plan is to operate a wedding barn at 107 Morse Road. The business will be called “Whitmarsh.” Events will be scheduled from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a limit of 125 guests.
The house, that has about 20 acres, was built in 1820 and is known as “The Old Whitmarsh Place.”
“We accepted it as a completed application. We expected it had been done. It was a not the case,” Planning Board Chairman Dennis Gray told the participants at the Dec. 10 hearing, referring to the notification of all abutters. The mistake was on the part of the Planning Board, he said.
Residents at the hearing expressed some concern about the Morse Road plan questioning the possible adverse effect of increased traffic, noise, and other impacts to the area known historically as Swift’s Corner.
In July of 2014, the Planning Board voted 4-1 to approve a plan by Granite Ridge Estate to use a rural lodge and a then new luxury barn at 65 Delano Drive for wedding parties and other events.
The Delano Drive wedding barn is located near the intersection of Morse Road and about two miles south east of the proposed wedding barn.
The 2014 vote allowed Portland-based business owner Anthony Fratianne to host up to 200 people in a new 3,500-square-foot barn and timber-framed lodge which overlook the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The barn is accessed by Nancy Ann Drive, a narrow, private dirt road off Norway Center Road.
A large number of residents turned out in 2014 to oppose that venture based on many of the same concerns as the Morse Road proposal, but Planning Board members say they have not heard of any problems since the business started operating.
Norway has no zoning laws, and there are no guidelines on commercial business development in residential areas. The applicant has to meet certain conditions for the change of use request to be approved by the Planning Board.