Planning Commission approves Farmer’s Market request

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By Nick Nunn staff writer

The Morgan County Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of a request to rezone 47.56 acres at 2620 Eatonton Highway, Madison, from Agricultural (AG) to General Commercial (C2), with the condition that, should the development fail, it will revert to AG within 12 months. The applicant, Kelly Products, Inc., intends to create an establishment for retail and agritourism, which will consist of a farmers market, specialty grocery, cafe, and artisan shops.

Staff had previously recommended that the commission only rezone nine acres of the property instead of the entire tract in order to prevent a large property being rezoned C2 without an operating business in the event that the venture fails.

Prior to the May 22 meeting, Keith Kelly, of Kelly Products, Inc., asked staff to amend its earlier recommendation to allow that the zoning of the property fall back to AG within 12 months if the venture fails.

Kelly stated that his financial lenders would feel less secure with the project if there was still the possibility that expansion of the facility could be hindered later by the a refusal to rezone the remaining sections of the property. He added that rezoning the entire property at this point allows them more “flexibility” in the layout of the development.

Kelly said that he has been working on this project for over two years, traveling around the country to find out what makes large-scale farmers’ markets successful. He also stated that he has purchased three 1800-era barns made of hand-hewn lumber from New York for the first phase of the development. Joe Cardwell, commission member, noted that adjacent properties were already zoned C2 as far back from the right of way as the property under question and that the Future Land Use Map also shows the property as commercial.

Commission Member John McMahan stated that he thinks that the development “will be a great asset to Morgan County.”

The Planning Commission also voted in favor of recommending a conditional use application to operate an event facility at 2911 Clack Road, Madison. The applicant, Serenata Farm, Inc., proposes using approximately four acres of the 50-acre property as a facility for weddings and private parties.

The application states that the applicant will utilize a tent for events and that portions of the 8,000 square foot house may be offered for specific needs or smaller events.

There is a parking area on site to support up to 300 cars, and the applicant intends to use portable toilets initially before deciding whether to construct permanent public restrooms. Events at the proposed facility will be catered. Bobby Robinson represented the applicant at the meeting, stated that the size of each event will vary according to the needs of each customer but that he doesn’t expect to have events for more than 150 people at a time. Robinson said that the Serenata Farm is “not going to be the ‘weddingville’ of the county,” and assured the commission that the condition of the property will always be the first priority.

“The property deserves respect,” said Robinson. He said that they would be working with Goodwin Events, of Greensboro, who will provide necessary items for the events.

The commission also voted unanimously to recommend an amendment to the city of Madison’s residential tennis court lighting ordinance in order to increase the maximum height of light fixtures from 20 feet to 22 feet and to require that the lighting fixtures be night-sky fixtures, in order to prevent upward glare.

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