Residents complaining about CT Farm shows
Morris, CT's South Farms has been hosting socially distanced outdoor shows over the past couple of months, as part of their "Twilight Concerts on the Farm" series, hosted by Manic Presents. Bill Burr and Dinosaur Jr played in September (not together), and dates with Manchester Orchestra, Neko Case and Lady Lamb, The Front Bottoms, Mike Birbiglia, John Mulaney, and Pete Davidson, and more are still to come. The shows have a full set of protocol for COVID-19 safety, including distancing groups from each other in "guest grids," and requiring mask-wearing and temperature checks, but that hasn't stopped residents of Litchfield County from complaining about them. The Hartford Courant reports that the Morris Planning and Zoning Commission voted on Wednesday (10/7) to order a stop to the series as of February 1, 2021, citing complaints about "noise, lights and traffic," and a zoning issue.
As for the zoning issue, South Farms received a temporary permit to begin hosting concerts after a May 12 executive order from CT governor Ned Lamont allowed for limited outdoor dining. In non-COVID times, the venue hosts weddings, and the Commission has now decided that it "does not qualify to be reconfigured based on Executive Order 7MM."
"We needed to put it on record and make it clear to the South Farms and to the neighbors that the board recognizes that this is not an acceptable use under normal zoning regulations," Commissioner David Wiig told The Courant. “[South Farms] does have concerts, but [owner Ben Paletsky’s] primary use, as he’s stated several times, is a wedding venue. Therefore, the music to me was accessory to that use, whereas now it’s become the primary use. Outdoor performances are not a permitted use in any zone in Morris."
"There is a person who’s probably within a thousand feet of the stage who has written in support," he continued. "There are people right across the street and one to two miles away who’ve reported issues...We have to weigh those conflicting factors."
The "issues" that residents have reportedly include Nikki Glaser using "adult language" during a recent show, as well as "increased noise, bright lights, traffic and people shouting on sleepy, rural streets."
Defending the series in a letter to the town, Paletsky wrote, "“We’re working on things. No one’s ever done this before, not just in Morris, Connecticut, but nationally. This is one of the few — if not only — places that are doing this. ... There’s near-term things we can do and there’s long-term things we can do, but I’m pretty confident the long-term things will fully address any concerns. We’ve done a lot of due diligence before this happened. This was a fast project, but it was a thoughtful execution of it."
The Hartford Courant also points out that the "concert series has created roughly 70 jobs and has been an economic boon to local restaurants, lodging establishments and related businesses"