READFIELD — Even though Bob Bittar lacks a permit to operate a nonprofit or a commercial facility, the music will go on as planned in his new timber-frame concert barn.

“I want the town to see what I’ve done,” Bittar said, walking from space to space, opening doors, and pointing out various features, all to the beat of the Caribbean steel drum music coming through speakers.

Bittar envisions the barn as a “true performance center,” a place where musicians young and old can converse with one another. “They play in bars and in places not suitable for people who are real artists,” Bittar said.

He has a certificate of occupancy for a single-family residence at the 26 Mill Stream Road property, so he’s invited friends and neighbors — as well as those checking the Readfield Emporium’s Facebook page — to a “free concert barn house-warming” on Saturday.

The new white pine barn — 60 feet long by 55 feet wide at places — is attached to an older structure, formerly a textile mill, now fitted out as a pub with tables and chairs and even two separate taps on the bar. In the bar, the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” boomed. The pub was the dream of Bittar’s late wife, Helen, who lived long enough to be shown the reality several months before she died on April 13.

The building itself has three large barn doors that swing open along one side under a row of high-paned windows. A stage with a concert piano and microphones occupies one end of the interior, and a balcony tops the commercial kitchen at the opposite end. The first concert, scheduled for 7 p.m., will be free, as will soft drinks and snacks that Bittar, a chef at his Readfield Emporium, will prepare himself.


The performers will be Stan Davis and Brian Kavanaugh, John Heaton-Jones, and blues performer Mary Murphy.

The following Saturday, Aug. 25, concert piano soloist Chiharu Naruse will perform at 7 p.m., and that will be free as well.

Bittar, 78, said he’s been working 15 hours a day, seven days a week on the property.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s truly insane.”

Bittar has sought a permit for a proposed event and community center since last winter. Initially, he asked to have the zoning changed to the Village District, which permits “higher density residential use, commercial, community and governmental facilities and light industry.” He said he followed a road map for improvements laid out for him by the late Stefan Pakulski, who was Readfield town manager at the time, but has run into roadblocks.

Bittar’s first proposal called for the Village District to extend from the Town Office to Giles Road and include Mill Stream Road. However, he withdrew that application after some neighbors and other residents voiced opposition March 1 at a public hearing.


At that meeting, Ed Sims, who lives nearby on Old Kents Hill Road, said there is more noise coming from the property, which he felt was a “disturbance.” Will Harris, who also lives nearby, said he could hear more noise.

Route 17 is visible from Bittar’s property on Mill Stream Road.

Supporters also attended the meeting. Jerry Bley, a Giles Road neighbor, suggested giving the venture a chance. Ellen Bowman, who lives nearby on Thundercastle Road, said a similar facility in Brownfield proved positive for that town.

Bittar’s second application sought to change the use of his property from single family home to a community center/club under the town’s Land Use Ordinance. Bittar said he would operate a nonprofit organization focused on music and that a board of directors would establish membership fees, rules, guest privileges, etc. He likened it to a country club. He wrote that his intent is to “provide the rural community with a contemporary meeting house.” He said it would have a function similar to that of the Grange hall in Readfield history as a site to host discussions and social activities.

However, the Planning Board rejected 6-0 Bittar’s application on June 13. The meeting minutes note that the “Planning Board agrees it’s a great venue, just not the right area.”

Now Bittar’s seeking to have the zoning on his property changed from rural residential to rural, a designation under which a commercial enterprise would be permitted.


Gary Quintal, the town’s code enforcement officer, said seeking that type of approval would be a two-step process. On Wednesday night the Planning Board found that the application for that zoning change was complete; however, the board has not voted on it.

In the meantime, Bittar and friends have gathered signatures on a petition seeking to put the matter to Readfield voters at the polls in November. Bittar said Thursday that the petition will be considered by the Readfield Select Board at their meeting on Monday night. The board’s regular meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in Asa Gile Hall.

The petition asks that the board put the question of amending the Land Use Map to voters in the form of a secret ballot. The change would affect seven lots along the dead-end Mill Stream Road; Bittar owns two of them.

Readfield Town Clerk Robin Lint certified that the petition has 188 signatures of voters in the town, 42 more than the 146 required.

Town Manager Eric Dyer said Friday that process calls for the Select Board to refer the petition to the Planning Board to review to determine whether the proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

Dyer said it’s similar to the process already underway at the Planning Board. “He’s approached the zoning change with a belt and suspenders,” Dyer said, referring to the two actions’ redundancy.


Mill Stream runs through Factory Square, adjacent to Bittar’s property, and a trail from it leads to the nearby Town Office at Asa Gile Hall. Bittar and his wife provided a permanent trail easement leading to the town-owned dam.

Mill Stream Dam, which was destroyed in the historic flood of April 1987, is near both the Town Office and busy Route 17, locally known as Main Street.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

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