Hall County commissioners are expected to consider a new zoning category Thursday called agri-entertainment, for events within agricultural residential zoning districts.
The ordinance was prompted in part by David and Michelle Gibbs of Clermont, who were using their residential barn on Ransom Freedom Road as a site for their business, LL Farms LLC. The barn held events, including weddings, proms and fundraisers, without a business license.
Another barn venue, the Walters Barn in Lula — a popular place for weddings and events on 350 acres — doesn’t have a business license either.
The Gibbses were told they had to rezone their property commercial, but the county planning commission narrowly denied their request in May. Neighbors spoke at the meeting and said the events created excessive noise, trash and traffic. The business owners will make their case to the commission Thursday.
Under the proposed ordinance introduced last week, hosts must have a county business license for holding events such as corn mazes, pumpkin patches, wine tastings and fundraisers, even if agri-entertainment zoning is approved. The building for the events must be at least 200 feet from any property lines, and parking must be 30 feet from property lines. The draft ordinance also includes the Fire Marshal’s Office regulating the number of attendees and limiting amplification of noise during outdoor parties.
Jim Walters said he’s a farmer and shouldn’t have to get a business license or change zoning. He sees some merit to the county having more control so event businesses don’t get out of hand. However, farmers have had gatherings in their barns for years.
“I just don’t like big government,” he said.
County officials noticed LL Farms was operating shortly after the Walters Barn burned down in March. County Planning Director Srikanth Yamala said he’s unaware how the marshal’s office learned about LL Farms.
Planning commissioners set the minimum lot size for agri-entertainment events at 15 acres, down from 25. For the Gibbses, with 14 acres, they still don’t measure up.
“And then all of a sudden we have a new ordinance that’s been written that going to exclude some if you meet the criteria,” Michelle Gibbs said. “So this new one that’s written, of course, I’m just missing by an acre or a few feet on the line.”
The Walters Barn, which was recently rebuilt, is back to holding weddings, according to its Facebook site. The Gibbses have pulled the plug on their business for now.
“They told me all barns have to (go through this process),” Michelle Gibbs said. “All the rules should be the same.”
The Walters Barn is currently out of compliance with county ordinances, Yamala said. Walters said he’s fully compliant.
“I beg to differ,” Walters said.