CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the purpose of the appeal. Brewer and SPG were previously denied a special use permit, but were later granted a permit to build a barn. Orange County residents were appealing the granting of this permit. The story has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
Monday night, Orange County residents gathered in Hillsborough to hear an appeal by residents for building permit for Kara Brewer and Southeast Property Group, LLC granted in June.
Brewer and SPG applied for a special use permit to construct the Barn of Chapel Hill in 2015, a $735,000 event space for weddings and corporate events. The proposed site is an undeveloped, wooded 22-acre property on Morrow and Millikan Roads in southwest Orange County.
This application was denied, but Brewer and SPG were granted a building permit in June 2016.
Laura Streitfeld, executive director of Preserve Rural Orange, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting watershed land and farms in Orange County, is not in favor of the event space.
“Southwest Orange County is a rural agricultural zone and the farms in this community have been here since before there was a United States and these heritage farms, at great sacrifice, have kept their property agricultural,” she said. “To put a commercial venue for weddings and corporate events in the midst of genuinely agricultural and residential properties is incompatible.”
In November 2015, the Board of Adjustment unanimously denied Brewer’s application for a special use permit, said Streitfeld.
Streitfeld said that in June, after the Brewer and SPG changed the application from event center for weddings to barn, they were granted the building permit.
“The Board of Adjustment noted that it was an extraordinary community that would experience negative impacts on adjacent farms, livestock and horses, and will create hazards for adjacent property owners,” Streitfeld said. “Farmers are very concerned that this rural community would be disturbed and it would be a very incompatible use of this commercial property in an agriculture-residential zone.”
The Board of Adjustment also noted that they could not think of any conditions under which they would approve this project, said Streitfeld.
“The concern of local farmers and community members is that after the project was rejected in 2015, this business claimed an agritourism zoning exemption that is actually meant to benefit farmers,” Streitfeld said. “The property owners cited the property’s USDA farm number to claim a zoning exemption meant to benefit farmers.”
In obtaining a USDA farm number, a farm can receive farm loans, crop insurance and disaster assistance compensation, all administered from the county-based Farm Service Agency.
When applying for special use permits, projects should follow the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) of Orange County, said Matt Hughes, a Board of Adjustment member.
He said one of the things he looks for in a special use permit is whether or not it aligns with the UDO and is related to what the county has in mind for the UDO.
“That may require the applicants to revise what they’d like so that it fits the UDO,” Hughes said.
Nearly all the residents in attendance were against the construction of the Barn.
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