The Conflicting History of 250 Long Pond Road
The main item on the agenda for the June 21 meeting of the Great Barrington Selectboard was supposed to be a public hearing on whether to issue a special permit to Kenneth Alpart of 250 Long Pond Road for the operation of up to 15 major events per year on its crest. – superior property. In fact, as tired neighbors recently pointed out to the town, Alpart was already operating the property as a de facto party house. Indeed, by its own admission, the 250 Long Pond has been a publicly advertised commercial event space for nine years.
In the latest twist of what turns out to be a 20-year saga, last Saturday, through its lawyer Susan Smith, Alpart unexpectedly withdrew its application for a special permit “without prejudice”, which means that ‘he retains the right to submit a new request. For its disgruntled neighbors, whose letters of complaint and calls to the police have brought the issue to the city’s attention, it is not clear whether this withdrawal means that events will stop, or if Alpart will end. just keep renting the property like it did. (Alpart has yet to respond to emailed questions about its intentions for the property.)
Renting the property as he had done would appear to be in direct conflict with restrictions on the land in 2001 in an agreement between the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) and the then owner, which specified that there was no had no ‘recreational commercial use of the property. . It is also in violation of a letter sent to Alpart in June 2020 by the city’s deputy building inspector, which required it to ‘cease using the property as a wedding / event venue.’ ( See page 37 of this document)
Today, 250 Long Pond Road – or, according to its website homepage, 250 Long Pond Celebrations: Weddings, Family Gatherings, Special Events – consists of 14,700 square feet of living space in a home. sprawling main, guesthouse and outbuilding added in 2016 and originally intended for raising llamas. The barn now – according to longpond250.com – “consists of a large open space that is perfect for social events, weddings, group performances and dance parties, corporate meetings, yoga and fitness classes. fitness, artist exhibitions and large dinners. (can comfortably accommodate up to 110 people) The special permit application specifies that the property has 46 parking spaces.
Before there was an event location at 250 Long Pond, there were 120 acres of vast forest along a rocky ridge about a mile north of the Division Street intersection, owned by Mr. Kelton Burbank, nature lover and benefactor of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. . As explained by Narain Schroeder, Director of Land Conservation for BNRC, the agency received the property as a gift from the Burbank Estate, the acreage coming into their possession with a retention restriction that allowed a single family home on an ‘envelope. building ”of not more than six acres which, depending on the restriction, may also include“ usually associated outbuildings ”. The work of the BNRC was to enforce the restrictions imposed on the entire plot.
One of those unaware of the stipulation of the deal’s six-acre envelope was then-neighbor Andrew Humes, whose Long Pond Road property lay below and just north of Long Pond site 250. He had bought land around his house to protect it and felt that all of the land above him was also protected by the BNRC. When excavators showed up to clearcut a huge strip at the top of the ridge, he was, according to Schroeder, “furious with us.” His fury was documented at the time in a Berkshire Eagle story.
Humes’ fury did not abate during the development of the property. In fact, during construction in 2006 and 2007, Humes kept a homemade sign along the road pointing to the massive construction project above and pointing out that this was what the BNRC considered conservation. “Everyone assumed BNRC owned it,” Schroeder explained. “But they didn’t realize this envelope.” (Humes recently sold his property and moved south.)
The envelope option was much more common 20 years ago than it is today, Schroeder said, and has fallen into disuse because the conditions under which they are managed are obscure, complicated, open to interpretation and not. fall outside the core mission of the NCRO to protect important land, sights and habitat. Today, the BNRC prefers to use an “exclusion” option in land transfers so that the agency does not have to “get involved in the personal affairs of others” and micro-manage developments.
The house at 250 Long Pond Road has never been inhabited. Once it was almost complete, Alpart and his then wife Jennifer Bonjean divorced and in 2009 the house was put on the market, where it has been on and off ever since. The initial asking price of $ 8,500,000 has been gradually reduced over the years to just under $ 7 million. Apparently the scorching real estate market is colder towards 15,000 square foot homes.
It was to offset the enormous costs of maintaining such a large real estate footprint that Alpert began hosting large groups and parties nine years ago. According to Alpart’s calculations, in a letter he recently wrote to some of his nearest neighbors, these costs are “exorbitant (the various taxes and insurance alone are insurmountable)”. In the same letter, he said that “some years it has been so difficult that we have been on the verge of foreclosure”.
As stated in Apart’s special permit application, he pays $ 80,000 per year in property taxes and over $ 20,000 in insurance, as well as upkeep, maintenance and utilities. (The cost of heating a 15,000 square foot commercial unit would be around $ 27,000 per year.) Alpart is the CEO of BT Trading, which, according to his LinkedIn profile, is “an exclusive trading company focused primarily on on algorithmic strategies on major commodities and futures exchanges.
The 250 Long Pond Road website is password protected, but the property rents on Airbnb for $ 3,900 per night for a potential week for 16 people in early June 2022. This was the most nighttime option. expensive listed in New England, the Hudson Valley, and even Manhattan, the only exceptions being a handful of properties on Cape Cod and the Islands.
The biography of Apart on its Great Barrington Airbnb list is, apparently, intended for properties in New York City. It ends with “We love this city and will share all of our secret gems in this magical city.”
A neighbor in the neighborhood says of Long Pond’s 250 summer parties over the past five years, which take place, they say, about two weekends a month: “It has been a nightmarish scenario, so strong that I can’t hear television in my own house. I couldn’t have a conversation. The house is shaking. Even during COVID, he was breaking all the rules and having a wedding for 160 people when we couldn’t have more than 25 people in our yards. This neighbor has called the police several times in previous years to register noise complaints and says that after such a complaint the music stopped and fireworks started blaring.
Another neighbor, a lawyer named Kevin Bolan, who owns a property at 265 Long Pond where he intends to build a house, submitted a nine-page single-spaced letter to the jury listing each of the 250 legal violations and ethics of Long Pond, by saving opprobrium for Apart’s “self-serving declaration” of its “irrelevant individual financial interest” in having to recoup its enormous financial expenses by renting out its property.
Neighbor Denise Forbes, who lives below the property on North Plain Road, agreed. “It’s not the city’s job to bail out bad investments,” she said.
Forbes has run a traditional B&B in town for seven years, and is also angry with double standards for traditional hotels and places like the 250 Long Pond. (Actually, if you Google “250 Long Pond”, the first result is a listing for Long Pond Hotel.) “I rounded up on them [the town] on the basis that it shows a really bad precedent that if you flout the statutes you can get away with it. I had to get permits and all that. They must be subject to the same rules as small shops.
Ed Abrahams, a member of the Great Barrington Selectboard, who was unaware of the property issues until the recent wave of complaint letters from neighbors, said, “We don’t have an Airbnb settlement. We had started working on a recording, to find out how much of a problem it was. The city rejected the proposal. About a month ago, I spoke about it saying it was time to start over.