Neighbors who filed suit to block a large taproom and beer distribution company from operating in their quiet, beachside neighborhood reached a settlement agreement with the company this month.
But this week Sandwich Building Inspector Brendan W. Brides gave Tree House Brewing Company permission to increase its inside seating capacity from 57 to 223, which could nullify the agreement.
The settlement agreement, signed by the neighbors, the town, and Tree House Brewing Co. the first week of September, limits the hours of operation, prohibits customer parking along nearby residential streets, prohibits outdoor music and imposes a daily limit of three beers per customer during the peak summer season.
The neighbors objected to the scope of Tree House Brewing’s plans, which include a taproom, curbside retail sales of its signature beer, a beer garden and food trucks.
Daniel Bailey, the attorney for the neighbors, said last week that his clients would rather not have the brewery in their neighborhood, but that they were happy to have come to a settlement agreement after many weeks of negotiations.
“They feel that at least some of the issues have been addressed,” Mr. Bailey said in a telephone interview last week.
Mr. Bailey could not be reached Wednesday to comment on whether the increased capacity could scuttle the settlement agreement.
A clause in the agreement, however, seems to caution against any such increases in size or capacity.
The appellants have the right “to take appropriate action, including legal action, in the event there is a substantial and material change in the approved plans of Tree House as of the date of this Agreement,” the document says.
Those changes include “any increase in the gross floor area of the project (and specifically including all exterior uses including the beer garden, food trucks and associated utilities and sanitary facilities) of greater than 10 percent [and] any increase in the approved occupancy of the project by more than 35 persons.”
Mr. Brides said on Wednesday, September 15, that he met with principals of the Tree House Brewing Company this week to discuss the next steps.
At that meeting, Tree House representatives pointed out that the previous restaurants at 98 Town Neck Road—Hemispheres, Horizons, and the Drunken Seal—all had seating capacity of 313 people, Mr. Brides said.
“They had a point. They should be entitled to the same. We can’t discriminate against them,” Mr. Brides said, adding that the town attorney also agreed on that point.
Mr. Brides arrived at the 223-person capacity after subtracting the 30 seats available in the outdoor beer garden (and the three parking spaces per person needed for those seats) he said.
Mr. Brides said Tree House, which has been steadily operating its retail beer distribution business from the parking lot since May, can now open the interior to customers.
Although the summer season is now officially over, Tree House will have to find offsite parking for its many customers before next May. That parking will have to be away from the immediate neighborhood and clearly marked and monitored, according to the agreement.
The parking lot around the building at 98 Town Neck Road can only accommodate about 20 cars.
Tree House representatives did not respond to requests for comment this week.
Mr. Brides said, however, that the company is planning an event for this weekend.
In a related development, the neighbors this week formally withdrew their grievance against Mr. Brides’s issuance of a building permit for the brewery.
A public hearing for that complaint had been continued five times by the zoning board while the settlement negotiations were pending.