County Commission Changes Mind On Wedding Venue That Is Too Close To Neighbor

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The County Commission on Wednesday, after a lengthy pow wow, changed its mind on a wedding venue at McDonald, Tn., that it had approved in September. The barn is just seven feet from the property line at one point.

Commissioners noted that the county Variance Board had denied a variance for The Barn at Beechtree Farm because it does not meet the setback requirements.

The vote was 5-2 in favor earlier. This time, it was 7-2 against, with only Chester Bankston and Randy Fairbanks in support.

Debbie Stafford said the barn wedding venture began after their daughter got married there in 2017 and interest began to rise about holding other weddings there. She said there were 16 weddings there this year.

There was discussion about whether the earlier approval covered just the barn or the entire property. Ms. Stafford said she would not try to have it anywhere else on the property if it could not be in the barn.

She said she and her late husband, Tim, had been long-time friends of the Binns family and share the same driveway. But she said the neighbors began complaining and "harassing" them when the wedding business started. She said they tried to make concessions, including building a large fence that extended down the driveway and cutting back the hours when music would end.

Ms. Stafford said her husband had a stroke and was told he had Stage IV brain cancer. She said he died in August. Ms. Stafford said she believes the stress of the fight with the neighbors worsened his health. She said the neighbors were harassing them a week before he died.

Ms. Stafford told the commissioners, "I am not going to use it (property) as a business any longer." However, she said three friends want to hold weddings there and she will not charge them.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor at first said public gatherings would be a violation of the zoning ordinance since it did not gain the commercial classification. However, county building inspector Ronnie Blaylock said his office would not file a violation unless some business activity is going on.

Officials noted that the barn was initially designated as just a pole barn (usually as an animal pen). 

Commissioner Greg Martin told Ms. Stafford, "I am sorry for your loss. I am also sorry for the loss of a friendship. That's bad - especially if you have to live next to each other."


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