Plan for outdoor music venue in Warner hits hurdle
Warner resident Toby Nickerson is a man of many ideas.
What began 28 years ago as a place to sell off old car parts has since developed into the booming Davisville flea market, which now attracts up to 120 vendors each Sunday. Nickerson converted a barn on his 25-acre property into an antique shop, where he sells everything from records to old farm equipment. He planted fruit trees behind his house that he plans to harvest and distill, updated half of his 1700s-era home to rent out as apartments and is in the process of constructing a hot dog stand and turning the rest of his house into a bed-and-breakfast.
“That’s the biggest problem – I can only be one place at one time,” he said.
But his latest idea, to start an outdoor music venue on the far side of his property, has hit a roadblock in the form of local zoning laws.
At a town planning board meeting Monday, the members clarified that his property off Route 103 isn’t zoned to host 20 single-day outdoor events each year, which Nickerson had requested.
If he wants approval, Nickerson, 74, now can go to the zoning board to seek a variance, said Warner Land Use Secretary Stephen Laurin. That’s exactly what Nickerson plans to do.
“I think it is good to have places where people have fun,” he said.
The plan is to host the outdoor concerts at a naturally forming amphitheater space on his land, where the grass slopes down into a small pond. He has spruced up the property over the past few years, lining the pond with large boulders, setting up electrical wiring and getting a makeshift trailer stage that he can set up when acts come to play.
He envisions several local bands playing sets at the venue on Sunday afternoons, when the flea market, a couple hundred yards away, is wrapping up. He could charge $5 for entry, but once a month it would be free for an open-mic jam session.
“That is what I would really like to have happen,” he said. It’s a natural progression from the types of musical events he has hosted in the past, such as inviting local musicians to play during the flea market on a small stage.
Last year, his amphitheater hosted a three-day music festival called Camp and Jam. Hundreds of people attended the event where more than 40 bands played.
“It was really something,” said Nickerson, who didn’t organize the festival. “It was a really joyous event.”
But in the future, Nickerson doesn’t plan on holding another large-scale event like that again. Residents are concerned his venue may become like Meadowbrook, a concert pavilion in Gilford, but it wouldn’t be that, he said. The property is bordered by state parks, a lumber yard and a Milton Cat business across the street, Nickerson said. “It’s not going to get any better than this.”
But, if the zoning board doesn’t pass an ordinance to permit his outdoor concerts, Nickerson plans to instead host outdoor movies at the same location. His property is zoned to show the outdoor films, with special town permission.
“I would like to make this sort of a creative spot,” he said. Turning it into an outdoor cinema would create a place for young filmmakers to show their work, and he found out he can purchase a blow-up movie screen for roughly $3,000.
“I think it would be a hoot, so I am going to keep pushing it,” he said. “There’s lots of 90-year-olds in my family, and I have every reason to think I am going to be doing stuff here for a good while. I want to make it interesting.”
(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)