By Jamison Hooks
A Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting became heated Tuesday morning when citizens became angry and unruly while voicing opposition to a proposed wedding facility that the board approved in a controversial 3 to 1 vote.
Shepherd Road residents spoke out against the Wedding Facility proposed by Donald and Julie Parsons, which will be located at 1370 Shepherd Road.
BOC Chairman Donald Harris banged his gavel to no avail when residents spoke out of turn against the facility after the public comment portion of the hearing had been closed.
Morgan County resident Lee Roberts talked over Harris’ repeated warnings to stop talking, but insisted on making his point that the proposed wedding facility would be inappropriate and unsafe for the area. “This is clearly a commercial venue in a residential, agricultural area. If you want to keep it that way then you don’t approve stuff like this,” said Roberts. Roberts tried confronting Parson personally after the meeting, demanding to know why she “would want to do something like this.”
A teary-eyed Julie Parsons, who attended the meeting with her two young daughters Maci and Izzie, explained her vision for the facility.
“This facility will be used to host upscale weddings. We see this as a family endeavor which one day would be something allowing my husband to leave the corporate world and be something we can pass along to our daughters,” explained Parsons.
Many residents from Shepherd Road attended the meeting to explain the negative impact this facility will have on their community.
Upon the top concerns are noise, excessive lighting, road-usage, and fears of drunk driving.
Parsons explained that the location of the facility on the 58 acre property has been moved four times in order to create the best sound buffer and minimal light exposure for neighboring homes.
“Decibels even at a lower level can travel miles especially in a open environment,” stated Cody Marshall of Doster Road.
The facility would have a maximum occupancy of 200 which neighbors are concerned would also mean 200 cars traveling up and down the dark and curving road.
Alicia Portwood, who owns a home backing up to the Parsons property, also spoke out in opposition. Portwood, who has personally experienced the trauma of drinking and driving, commented that the possibility of intoxicated drivers on her road scares her.
“It’s a very dark and narrow road. At night you can’t see anything in front of you. I have great concerns for the guests drinking and driving,” stated Portwood.
Suzanne Krone, another resident of Shepherd Drive added her concerns to the issue.
“I feel like preferential treatment is given to the potential business owners and not the citizens,” explained Krone.
BOC Chairman Donald Harris responded to the concerned citizens of Shepherd Road.
“Sometimes you need to do what’s best for the entire county. However this board rules, we need to get out of our concern for self. We need to look at the entire picture,” stated Harris.
“It’s not just about self when considering the danger that Shepherd Road presents,” responded Judy Roberts, another citizen who spoke against Parson’s request.
Julie Parsons once again addressed the BOC.
“One of the people who has spoken today has already threatened us with a lawsuit if we move forward with this,” said Parsons.
After several additional citizens spoke out against the facility the BOC closed public comment and began discussing the proposal.
Commissioner Philip Clack addressed the fact that Shepherd Road has no speed limit signs.
“I can make a decision on what the speed limit sign will be. I will have speed limit signs on that road which will be a determination of professionals such as the sheriff,” explained Clack.
Clack made a motion to approve the facility with a stipulation that music stay inside and special gooseneck lighting be added to facility.
The motion was approved in a 3 to 1 vote.
“Everything changes,” said Harris. “Nothing in life stays the same and we have to be willing to change with things.”