By Lisa Loomis

A proposed skateboard park and half-pipe facility have been permitted for a portion of the parking lot at the Big Picture Theater in Waitsfield.

The Open Hearth Community Center received the conditional use permit from the town of Waitsfield this month. The Development Review Board approved the Open Hearth request for a skate park and half-pipe as well as a pavilion.


Construction on the skate park and half pipe will begin next spring and organizers are hoping to have the park ready for Memorial Day, according to Open Hearth spokesperson AnnMarie Harmon.

The project is being funded in part from a $5,115 from the Mad River Valley Recreation District, plus over $2,000 earned via car washes by local skateboarders and supporters. The group has other funds in the form of private donations.

The skate park will be built on a portion of the parking lot to the east of the movie theater. It will be built on a 100-by-40-foot square of pavement that will be surrounded by a split rail fence. The half-pipe will be 30 feet by 15 feet and 9 feet high and made of wood. Both pieces are considered temporary as they have no foundation and can be moved.  


Because the project is located within an existing planned unit development, the DRB has the ability to waive side and front yard setbacks and so the skate park can be tucked up at the northerly edge of the property.

There is a stormwater drainage issue that must be addressed before there is any paving of the skateboard park. The town wants the contours of the Big Picture driveway and parking lot returned to their original conditions (before the current owner of the theater did some remodeling and some regrading) and spelled out that request in a November 13 letter to the DRB, referencing this project.

In that letter, the town administrator, writing on behalf of the select board, reminded the DRB that the select board is awaiting compliance with its request to restore the drainage to its original condition prior to work commencing.


The DRB decision approving the skate park makes note of that town concern and also asks the application to provide a letter from the state indicating compliance with state and town stormwater permit requirements as well as a written statement from the state confirming that the project will not have a negative impact on neighboring wetlands.


Because this is not considered a permanent structure, the DRB decision spells out that the town's two-story building standard does not apply. The decision okays the elimination of up to 12 parking spaces for the project, noting that the parking lot currently has 95 spaces. Twenty-two of those are required for Wood and Wood and 70 are required for the Big Picture and Café, leaving three extra spaces currently.

"Although the skate park will eliminate up to 12 parking spaces, the Big Picture has access to the Wood & Wood spaces outside of regular office business hours," DRB board members wrote in their decision, noting that the skate park would remain unlit and would not be open after 9 p.m.

The pavilion which the DRB approved will be 15 feet by 15 feet and located between the skate park and the movie theater. It will be temporary and outside the wetlands buffer zone and as part of a PUD can also be exempted from setback standards.