Arts, healing center can operate in Richland

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Four Directions: A Center for the Arts and Healing, a new 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, may continue holding music and dance gatherings at its Dickey Road location, which opened in May.

Peter Shefler said he was pleased with news he received Tuesday night from the Richland Zoning Board, but believes parts of the ruling will need further explanation. He is founder and director of Four Directions.

Mr. Shefler and his attorney, Christina Malkin, said they were optimistic as they read the review from the zoning board after a debate that started when a Richland supervisor questioned whether music and dance fell under the definition of art.

“We need to review this more thoroughly and get some clarification of understanding of a few of these items, but I would say we are happy,” Ms. Malkin said after she read the documents.

On July 15, zoning board members listened to supporters of Mr. Shefler, along with a few concerned residents, during a Request for an Interpreting Ruling of Non-Conforming Use of property as a multipurpose art, nature and spirituality center. The property is in a low-intensity residential district.

The board voted unanimously to allow Mr. Shefler to continue operations.

Ms. Malkin said after reading the decision, the board did not consider the activities that Mr. Shefler had been holding and planned to hold as illegal.

The board determined that Mr. Shefler was not expanding use of the property that had already existed under previous owners Eliza Miller, who was Mr. Shefler’s late aunt, and her partner, Janet DeCoux. The two women were artists and often held various gatherings on their 10-acre homestead.

While the board ruled that music and dance gatherings fall under the definition of art and can therefore continue at the center, they placed restrictions on those gatherings, including: a maximum of 80 guests per gathering, limiting gatherings to no more than one per month, requiring outdoor activities to end by 10 p.m. and prohibiting amplified music. Ms. Malkin said they would ask for clarification on a few of the items.

“Now we know where we stand and continue to plan new activities,” Mr. Shefler said.

Overall, he said he was relieved and gratified at the board’s decision.

“I think that the decision proves that the land held up the energy of where and what it has been for so many years,” he said.

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer:

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