Tree House Brewing gets conditional OK for capacity of 5,000

Tree House Brewing Company has won conditional approval to triple is occupancy for next season to 5,000 people.

Tree House Brewing Company has won conditional approval to triple is occupancy for next season to 5,000 people. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 01-05-2024 9:11 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Tree House Brewing Company has been given the go-ahead to more than triple its occupancy for the coming season, pending public safety officials’ approval of a emergency action plan.

The Select Board gave the conditional approval Wednesday night, which hinges on signatures from the town health agent and building inspector, as well as the police, fire and EMS chiefs. Once approved, the popular brewery will be allowed to host up to 5,000 patrons — up from 1,500 — for outdoor concerts and other special events, such as its annual half-marathon. The parking lot will remain its original size and the company will again work with neighbors, like Yankee Candle, for satellite lots and shuttle/bus routes.

While the board said they appreciate the company’s responsiveness to the town’s request, members said the brewery needs to come up with a finalized emergency action plan that shows how Tree House would get 5,000 people indoors or off-site in the event of an emergency.

“Public safety is not negotiable and it never has been,” said Select Board Chair Carolyn Shores Ness. “I do feel comfortable that there is a cooperative working relationship and that you can get this done.”

Safety requests have been laid out in a memorandum signed by Police Chief John Paciorek Jr., South Deerfield Fire District Chief William Swasey, Acting South County EMS Chief Tim Drumgool, Health Agent Valerie Bird and Building Commissioner Robert Walden.

While the top request listed by each department is an updated emergency action plan — and asking that it be a “living document” — the Police Department is also requesting the company look into getting a second driveway on Routes 5 and 10 to alleviate traffic at the end of a large event. That sort of request also brings the MassDOT into the equation, as any sort of change to Routes 5 and 10 requires the agency’s approval.

If the company does not receive approval for the curb cut from the state, it is expected to explain how it would handle so many people leaving the venue without crippling traffic.

Tree House Brewing Regulatory Specialist Allison Masley and Chief Growth Officer Sarah Maggie Morin said in their presentation to the board that the company is seeking to expand its capacity to draw in different musical acts and larger crowds, which could then bolster the economic impact the business already brings to town.

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“While we are looking to expand the number of people,” Morin added, “it doesn’t mean we’re expanding in terms of the decibels or getting louder.”

While there have been few, if any, official noise complaints made to the town, the Select Board did note there were several comments posted on social media, along with a couple of residents who aired concerns Wednesday evening.

“I love Tree House, I love your pizza and your venue, but there were a couple of your shows that I had to go inside for,” said Jackson Road resident Tami Gaylor. “We feel like the venue is perfect, tripling the number of people just seems mind-boggling to me.”

Masley said they will have sound engineers study the brewery’s noise levels again, but she said concert decibels “never exceeded” the 90 decibel limit at the property line.

“While it may be 85 (decibels) at our property, the wind takes the sound of the train quite far … sound can travel in mysterious ways and I’m sure that’s why it’s louder near your house,” Masley said. “I have made sure we are not exceeding any sort of sound level that would not be acceptable to our neighbors. We do want to be good neighbors.”

Shores Ness said the company has worked well with the town and is responsive to its concerns, so she has no worries about noise levels or the large crowds, as long as Tree House can show it has strong emergency and event plans.

“I have heard of no compliance issues and they are very strict,” Shores Ness said. “There have been no violations whatsoever, it is family-friendly in what they are trying to do and I’d say they have an outstanding record.”

Swasey added that the brewery is a good partner with the South Deerfield Fire District.

“They’ve really worked with us,” Swasey said. “Do I have some concerns? … Yes, but they are going to be addressed in the emergency action plan. This document, the (emergency action plan) is very important to us.”