On October 28, residents will be asked to approve a proposed Agricultural Entertainment Overlay District that would allow for the development of the Sturbridge Agricultural & Equestrian Center. This multi-use recreational complex would provide numerous amenities for the town. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Overlay District and the project.
What is the Agricultural Entertainment Overlay District?
An Overlay District is a set of regulations that apply to a specified area of town. The Agricultural Entertainment Overlay District would include about 380 acres in the southwest part of Sturbridge along the Connecticut border. It would allow the use of the land for facilities beneficial to the town including athletic fields, public gardens, nature trails, festivals, and horse racing and horse events. It would protect the town from unwanted development
Why is there a need for an Overlay District?
An Overlay District is a set of zoning regulations that are applied in addition to existing regulations in a specific area. They allow for specific types of projects and restrictions to protect the town from unregulated development that would be detrimental to residents. Current regulations would not adequately accommodate the type of recreational complex envisioned for the site.
Will approval of the Overlay District allow for a specific project?
Approval of the Overlay District sets what is and is not allowed to be built on the property, but any development still requires town approval. Any applicant would have to submit impact studies and meet the requirements of the site plan along with special permitting bylaws.
What will not be allowed under the proposed Overlay District?
The Overlay District regulations would specifically prohibit slot machines and prevent the building of a casino on the property. In addition, it would limit retail, so there wouldn’t be a strip mall.
What amenities would there be for the community?
The recreational complex would include athletic fields available to the community including a central pavilion, snack bar, and restrooms. There would be space for groups such as the 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Boy Scouts, and Girls Scouts to gather and host events. The public would be able to enjoy nature trails, a farmer’s market, and a local restaurant. The site could also be used for fairs and festivals throughout the year.
How else would the Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center benefit the town?
The complex would create around 100 jobs that would be open to residents. Additionally, the project would bring in $1 million in annual revenue through property taxes and benefits.
The center would also generate business for nearby restaurants and hotels.
How else will the project be regulated?
In addition to meeting all the zoning and building requirements of the town, there will be a Host Community Agreement. This legally binding document outlines the benefits, payments, and operations between the Sturbridge Agriculture and Equestrian Center and the Town of Sturbridge. It specifies such things as payments to the town. It also requires such things as the hiring of police details for the limited number of events each year as well as prohibiting project access from Breakneck Road.