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Hall County commissioners approve agri-entertainment ordinance
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Hall County commissioners approved an agri-entertainment ordinance Thursday evening that includes changes from the original version and the revision discussed at Monday’s work session.

Commissioner Craig Lutz offered a lengthy amendment, such as excluding several of the events regulated under the first draft, at the second reading. The commissioners also approved removing the minimum lot size, changing the setback requirements and making events end earlier.

“We used a very broad brush when we originally looked at this ordinance,” Lutz said before the vote. “This ordinance ... now, if approved and voted on today, would basically be changed and take out the pumpkin patches, the corn mazes, the things that are probably more agribusiness.”

The commission passed the law and the amendments unanimously. Three people spoke about the proposed ordinance, with two urging the board to table it.

The county defined agri-entertainment as the gathering of people for social, celebratory or entertainment purposes at an agricultural venue in agricultural districts where a fee is charged by the owner or representative for the use of the venue.

The types of events narrowed to only include farm weddings, receptions, public gatherings or similar uses determined by the county planning director. They shouldn’t negatively impact neighboring properties.

The building for the event must be at least 300 feet from property lines of different landowners and parking must be 200 feet from any property lines. The ordinance also included limiting noise, except during a wedding ceremony, and the number of attendees.

A new condition discussed during the work session was added. It requires that conservation use property being considered for agri-entertainment use doesn’t breach its covenant.

Conservation land helps protect green spaces while giving tax breaks to property owners. The qualifying land-use purposes include timber or woodlands, crop cultivation, pastures, “environmentally sensitive areas,” beekeeping operations and forest land. Allowable uses include farm weddings.

All event venues in unincorporated Hall County must have a business license, a certificate of occupancy and be approved by the commission, under the new law.

“As it stands today, these types of businesses are illegal in (certain agricultural residential zoning districts), whatever the intent,” Lutz said. “We do feel like we’re business-friendly, but we’re also neighbor-friendly.”

Board Chairman Richard Mecum, who criticized the proposed ordinance Monday as being too broad, said he was happy with the compromise.

“It took all the other miscellaneous other events off the table and just went with the wedding venues basically, and the wedding-type venues,” Mecum said. “Just going with this one style of event, that takes care of the problem we’re facing.”

An agribusiness ordinance may come about, but Mecum said he doesn’t see it happening in the near future.

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