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Warren Select board addresses liquor license, bridge replacement

“Our default position has always been to support business in The Valley,” Warren Select Board member Anson Montgomery said at the board’s most recent meeting, which took place on Tuesday, July 10.

Unfortunately, businesses in mixed use commercial/residential areas often create conflicts and the owners of the Pine Tree Pub in Sugarbush Village were asked to the meeting to address a few of their neighbors’ concerns before the board could approve the pub’s liquor license renewal.

The Pine Tree Pub in Sugarbush Village which is surrounded by condos on both sides has in the past year received several complaints from nearby residents regarding the impact of the pub’s patrons, who loiter outside the building, smoking and speaking loudly, and often using inappropriate language, according to the complainants. 

Although the pub designates the loading dock side of the building for people to take cigarette breaks, as the noise is more contained there than it would be in front of the building or on the opposite side, nearby residents say that noise pollution isn’t the only problem, citing cigarette butts and beer cans surrounding the building, as well as an incident last year in which someone threw a rock through a neighbor’s window. 

The Pine Tree Pub owners heard these concerns but pointed out that it was impossible to prove whether the litter and vandalism was related to their establishment. “Is it coming from the condos, or is it coming from our pub?” they asked, stating that in the police report regarding the broken window there was nothing that said the rock-thrower came from their pub. 

“I feel like there’s this sentiment that we’re encouraging people to get drunk and be rowdy,” one of the owners said. “We’re really trying to maintain a family-friendly establishment.”

In the end, the board decided the dissension was a “communication issue,” as residents were most upset by the fact that when they called the pub late at night to report a noise problem, no one answered. 

To hopefully help fix this, the board recommended that the owners give their cell phone numbers to neighbors who request them, so they are more immediately accessible via call or even text message and can, therefore, address complaints in a timelier manner.

The board voted to approve the liquor license renewal on the condition that the Pine Tree Pub owners attend next year’s renewal meeting to evaluate whether the changes have been working. In the meantime, “listen to your neighbors,” select board chair Andy Cunningham said.

The focus of the second half of the meeting switched from beer to bridges, when Warren resident Lenord Robinson came forward to argue against the proposed reconstruction of the bridge on Plunkton Road, for which the town is currently gathering bids.

“I think it’s morally wrong for the town of Warren to ask FEMA to replace this bridge,” Robinson said, arguing that whatever wear the bridge has sustained was not caused by Tropical Storm Irene and, therefore, should not be paid for with federal relief money. 

“With all the damage that we’ve seen, and all the people that need that money, we don’t need it,” Robinson said. “As of today, there’s not a crack in the bridge’s floor. 

However, there is a crack in one of the bridge’s abutments, the select board pointed out, which happened the morning of Irene. “I think what we have here is a bridge that is severely damaged and compromised,” director of public works Barry Simpson said, disputing Robinson’s claim that the bridge is “fine.”

As of last week, when the town agreed on a municipal tax rate, they had no guaranteed money from FEMA in the budget to replace the bridge. The board explained, however, that FEMA does not dole out money lightly, so if they agree to pay to repair the bridge, the damage to it must be serious.

While the board expressed that they would like to be able to have an engineer “OK” the bridge and forgo current reconstruction plans, if the bridge fails in a few years they don’t want to have to explain to townspeople shelling out money in taxes why they didn’t take money from FEMA when they had the opportunity. 

In the end, despite Robinson’s appeal, it appears as if the town will continue to gather bids for the bridge’s reconstruction.

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