CORRECTION: The original version of this story misrepresented the area in which the party barn was proposed to be built. Kara Brewer proposed the property be built in the rural county outside Chapel Hill. The story has been updated to reflect these changes.
“I agree” and “I disagree” signs waved in Orange County’s West Campus Office Building in Hillsborough Monday in response to the testimonies and statements delivered to approve or reject a proposed party barn in the town.
After almost five hours of hearing testimonies and reviewing evidence, the Orange County Board of Adjustment rejected Kara Brewer’s application to a Class B Special Use Permit (SUP) for the development of an event barn in an agricultural residential zone.
“I’m very disappointed in the decision,” said Brewer when the board rejected her permit. Brewer said she needs to speak with her lawyers about whether she could pursue other actions to approve the development.
A Class B SUP authorizes the holder to develop a particular parcel of land but must meet certain conditions.
Brewer’s application proposed the development of a 4,200 square foot 1860s-style barn in the middle of the wooded property designed to hold up to 250 people for weddings and charity events. The development project also proposed a parking lot with 125 spaces, a main drive way leading to Morrow Mill Road and a service driveway exiting on Millikan Road.
At least six residencies are located within 1,200 feet of Brewer’s property.
The property, which rests between Morrow Mill Road and Millikan Road in in the rural county outside Chapel Hill, is surrounded by a country residential area where longtime residents have built their agriculture and raised their families in the seclusion and quiet of the country.
An overwhelming presence of residents and farmers that live within a mile radius of Brewer’s property attended the public hearing to oppose the development project. The hearing room overflowed with residents left standing against the walls of the room when there were no more seats.
“I feel that our family has a lot at stake,” said Laura Streitfeld, a resident of the area, in her testimony during the hearing.
There was a consensus among the testimonies of the locals – they were concerned about the wave of traffic, the noise generated by the wedding receptions and the risk of drunken drivers on the solitary roads of which the residents are accustomed. Other residents that lived directly across on Morrow Mill Road were concerned about the lights of traffic entering and leaving the property during events.
“When (our house) was first built, there were no roads,” resident Doris Ray said during her testimony. “We never had noise. We see people walking, jogging and riding (their horses) in the community. We all feel safe in the community. We’ve enjoyed our quiet, rural community for 50 years.”
Brewer insisted that the music would be contained within the building for receptions and that ceremony music would not be played outside after 8 p.m. She was also willing to work with residents to plant vegetation barriers to block the headlights of cars leaving the property late at night.
During the hearing, Tim Smith, the civil engineer hired by Brewer, said the traffic flow would increase between 66 to 163 cars per event.
Noral Stewart, who specializes in architectural acoustics, said noises could be contained within a building but it was difficult to do.
“If the structure isn’t properly constructed, the sound can be carried, especially the bass,” he said.
Brewer failed to prove all three conditions to receive the permission to build the barn on the 22 acres of woodland property she bought more than a year ago. The Board of Adjustment said she was not able to prove that the development would maintain public health and welfare, enhance or maintain the value of contiguous property in the surrounding area or that the character of development would be in harmony with the surrounding area.
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