KOSCIUSKO — The permitted use for Blue Barn Berry Farm remains in question after a Kosciusko Board of Zoning Appeals meeting held this morning, June 11.
Blue Barn Berry Farm, 9139 North CR 300E, Syracuse, is requesting an exception to allow the change and alteration of previously granted exceptions by allowing all-purpose banquet facilities for weddings and parties.
Area Planning Director Dan Richard explained that the history with the property stems from 2014 when the original fruit and veggie stand was allowed on the property as an exception in a residential district. Over the years, the stand has transformed to add buildings for classes but the property is now being used to hold weddings and events without the proper approval.
“Through this hearing now, they are requesting further expansions and be allowed to hold the wedding receptions, weddings, other banquet facilities on this particular property,” said Richard.
Attorney Jack Birch was present at the meeting representing co-owners Peggy Bucher and Shanda Scheeren.
“My understanding — I wasn’t involved in any of the prior hearings — is that they did try and explain what they are trying to do in the prior hearings,” said Birch. “I think these two ladies have been trying to be very transparent from day one on what they were proposed to do, whether or not the proper procedures had been followed.”
Birch explained that the business has been hosting weddings and operating as a banquet hall for the past four years.
Attorney Steve Snyder was present at the meeting representing three adjacent property owners in the Jacob Lake area.
“They contacted me because they have been making complaints with the plan staff about the activities that were going on here and weren’t comfortable with the responses they were getting,” said Snyder. “When you go back and look at the various exceptions that were heard by the board going back, I think, well before 2013, they were all for fruit and veggie stand … that’s the biggest problem, that’s what was approved, was a fruit and veggie stand.”
Snyder explained that the area is a residential subdivision that was developed as a private ski lake. He went through a list of exception uses allowed in a residential district and pointed out that while a fruit and veggie stand is an allowed exception, a wedding venue or banquet hall is not.
He continued his argument against the request by pointing out that he had not seen a parking or drainage plan and did not believe the building had sprinklers and isn’t up to fire code. Several different videos were shown that his clients had taken during both the daylight and nighttime hours that highlighted the noise and light activity coming from the property.
“What we’re saying is that one, legally, it can’t exist. A fruit and veggie stand is what can exist. Weddings and receptions and banquets are not a part of a fruit and veggie stand,” said Snyder. “This is a commercial activity in a residential district that violated the zoning ordinance.”
Birch counterargued that the business had the necessary items, such as drainage and parking plans, to operate as a wedding venue. He explained that he was only brought onto this case last week by co-owners Bucher and Scheeren. He asked the board to have a continuance of the request for 30 days so a clear-cut plan can be established and he could possibly come back with a modified request.
The board granted Birch’s request and the case was continued until the next meeting on Tuesday, July 9.