Charlemont planners approve special permit for Hinata Mountainside Resort

Jen and Jeff Neilsen received special permit approval from the Charlemont Planning Board to pursue the construction of 32 cabins for their Hinata Mountainside Resort off of Warfield Road.

Jen and Jeff Neilsen received special permit approval from the Charlemont Planning Board to pursue the construction of 32 cabins for their Hinata Mountainside Resort off of Warfield Road. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-17-2024 2:03 PM

Modified: 05-17-2024 6:24 PM


CHARLEMONT — The town’s newest attraction could begin welcoming people as soon as May 2025 after the Planning Board granted a special permit to Hinata Mountainside Resort off of Warfield Road.

With drafted conditions laid out at the previous week’s meeting, Thursday’s discussion was brief, as Planning Board consultant Jeff Lacy went over the finalized conditions with applicants Jeff and Jen Neilsen, of Agawam, who plan to construct 32 cabins and revitalize the Warfield House Inn on a 473-acre property off of Warfield Road. The property is currently owned by the Schaefer family, which owns Berkshire East Mountain Resort, and the land is expected to be sold now that the permit is approved.

The Neilsens are proposing a retreat where people can relax and make use of the region’s natural and recreational resources. While the cabins were listed as “glamping cabins” on the Planning Board’s meeting agendas, the two applicants emphasized their project’s vision is far from a camping environment.

“We’re super excited, so thank you,” Jeff Neilsen said after the permit was approved. Up at the site after the meeting, Neilsen looked east toward the view of Charlemont’s hills and added, “How can you beat this?”

The 32 timber-frame cabins will be about 500 square feet and feature a small deck. The couple also plans to revitalize the restaurant present on the site, albeit at a reduced scale, and they expect to host weddings and other events there. Less than 10% of the site, or 31 acres, will see development.

Jen Neilsen said the name “Hinata” is Japanese and translates to “facing the sun,” which is perfectly fitting as all the buildings on the hillside will face the rising sun.

“The buildings and all the cabins will be facing the east and we think that’s pretty cool,” she said up at the site, with the couple adding that the unique name also will help differentiate their business from others.

While there has been widespread support for the resort at the four meetings held, there were also concerns raised by residents about the use of Warfield Road, which is a small hill leading up to the property with a challenging exit onto Route 2 in downtown Charlemont.

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To alleviate concerns, the Neilsens and Jon Schaefer proposed an approximately 5,200-foot driveway through the Zoar Outdoor property using a previously built road running up the mountain. The Neilsens will be upgrading this driveway as part of the project. Zoar is also owned by the Schaefer family.

Other major conditions set on the project include monitoring use of Warfield Road. Lacy said any overuse “may be cause for review of this special permit and further consultation with the Planning Board.” The original draft permit had stated overuse of the road would be cause for revocation of the permit, but the Neilsens’ team said it will be difficult to monitor the use of a public road.

Instead, the Neilsens said they will ensure signs direct people to the private driveway at Zoar, which will have an address so GPS directs people there as well.

The special permit also requires Hinata Mountainside Resort always have a responsible party reachable by phone when the business is open and allows for a Planning Board inspection after a phone call or with four hours’ notice. Additional conditions include following darksky.org guidelines for light pollution and prohibiting amplified music past 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

With unanimous approval from the Planning Board, Jeff and Jen Neilsen said they are hoping to have the resort open by May of next year.

“This is a win for everyone,” Jeff Neilsen said.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.