The Barn of Chapel Hill has 17 weddings scheduled beginning this summer at its rustic venue, but they may not happen.
The Board of Adjustment determined Monday night that the barn could not host weddings or retreats.
“I’m not entirely sure what the decision or what the written decision is going to be from what the board decided, because I’m a little unclear as to what they did decide,” said Barn owner Kara Brewer.
She’s been fighting to use the barn as a venue for the past year, but the board has rejected her proposal three times in the past 16 months.
The board first rejected the request for a special use permit in late 2015, with neighbors arguing that an event space would create unnecessary noise in the area.
However, planner Michael Harvey said the property owned by Brewer counts as a farm because of the flowers, chestnut trees and other plants they grow. Brewer said the Barn is exempt from county zoning regulations because it’s a “bona-fide” farm.
“Agritourism is a part of it,” she said. “Being able to have income as part of agritourism. Bringing people to farms, teaching them about your farm, showing them what it is that you do, that’s a really important part of people remembering who you are, and then ending up buying your product later.”
But the proposal was denied again by the board in October. However, Orange County planning staff reversed the appeal, saying that as long as the property was used for farming and agritourism, it was exempt from zoning.
But after the proposal was brought back to the BOA Tuesday, the decision was more specific: that the Barn could continue forward with all plans except for weddings and retreats.
But Brewer said it’s the weddings that were going to bring in all the revenue, and set them apart from other farms.
“One of our main sources of revenue are selling flowers to brides, and we can sell to markets,” she said. “We can sell to individuals through our CSA, and we can do all of this, but it’s important to be as diversified as possible, so that is part of it.”
If the final ruling prevents weddings and events, Brewer said they will pursue an appeal.
“I do not know how the process works at this time,” she said. “But we would certainly appeal that decision.”
She said however, she’s waiting for the written version of the decision to come from the BOA, so she and the rest of the staff can understand why board members said no.
“We’re waiting for that written decision to come down from the board to see exactly what the decision was and what their reasoning was,” Brewer said. “What their legal reasoning was. Because there does have to be some sort of legal tie-in.”
Brewer said it will be easier to make a decision about the events the Barn has already booked after the board releases the written decision.