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The Daily Tar Heel

Land owner appeals plans for party barn to Orange County staff

Chatham county resident Kara Brewer is currently in the process of appealing to the staff of Orange County for the construction of a party barn after its initial rejection in November by the Board of Adjustment.

The Barn of Chapel Hill is proposed to be a 4,200 sq. ft. location with a capacity to hold 250 people built on a 22-acre plot of land along Morrow Mill Road in Chapel Hill. The barn is designed to attract weddings and retreats, among other social events.

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Brewer purchased the land with the intention of building the barn and wants to add bathrooms, a loft and a veranda to the barn design in Chapel Hill. Brewer also hopes to use the bordering farmland to plant flowers, which can be used for weddings and other such events.

Brewer said even though state law exempts bona fide farm operations from local zoning regulations, she decided to go through the county’s zoning permit process to match her farm plan to the standards of the county. 

“We're a small family farm,” Brewer said. “I'm lucky that Orange County provides a lot of great support to beginning farmers. The preservation of land and restoration of buildings is something I really believe in, and I'm excited to get the farm started and begin the restoration of a 19th-century barn this spring.”

Mark Dorosin, District 1 vice chairperson of the Board of Orange County Commissioners, said the issue is whether the local government can regulate farm use. 

“The question that has arisen with this use is whether what the property owner wants to do with their property is in fact a bona fide farm use within the statutory definition,” Dorosin said.  “If it does not fall under this definition, and is another type of accessory business, the fact that it may take place on a farm may have some secondary impacts on the community.”

And the impacts on the community are a source of concern for many local farmers and property owners, though they do not have much say over what Brewer can do with the property.

Orange County Commisioner Penny Rich said the issue might be out of the control of the Board of Commissioners.

“The barn is on a farm, and they get exempt from the county commissioners telling them what to do,” Rich said. “I know the public feels like they’ve not been heard, but my understanding is that our hands are tied.  We have no power over this because once you have a farm it is a state issue.”


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