By Tia Lynn Ivey
A fiercely opposed application for an event facility on Sandy Creek Road in Madison was voted down by the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) last Tuesday. The BOC unanimously voted to deny Algin Properties’ application for a conditional use for an event facility in order to host parties, picnics and small weddings with no more than 100 people. The BOC disregarded the Morgan County Planning Commission’s recommendation for approval, instead siding with local opposition who argued that a commercial event facility would decrease property values and reduce the quality of life for nearby neighbors.
About 30 members of the public showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to oppose the request.
Commissioner Philip Von Hanstein made the motion to deny the application.
“I am new at this, but I went up and looked at the event facility and while they have done a great job, I have to several real estate professionals and others, and I have yet to find anyone that will tell me it wont have a negative impact,” said Von Hanstein. “We are talking about a commercial venue…I personally wouldn’t want to live next to there and I can’t imagine anyone else would either.”
Ginny Willet, of Algin Properties, and her lawyer David Dickerson, appeared before the BOC to plead her case.
“This is going to be a very small event facility…we are not talking about a great amount of congestion or a great amount of people at one time,” said Dickerson. “I don’t see how in the world that an event facility that shuts down at 9 p.m. could have a negative impact on anyone or create any amount of disturbance.”
Julie Parsons, who also faced opposition for her wedding facility last year, spoke in favor of Willet’s application.
All the other public comments were against the project, focusing on noise, traffic, decreased property values, and worries over an increase in accidents due to alcohol consumption at commercial event facilities.
David Flint, an Atlanta-based lawyer, spoke to the BOC on behalf of Dan Rather, who loves adjacent to Willett’s property, and Jane Robertson.
“You are to exercise your discretion with this proposed use, which is an event facility and short term rental cottage, and decide if it negatively impacts the surrounding area,” said Flint. “We think the scope, size and use obviously does and this application should be denied.”
Glenn Bottomley, a neighbor, provided blown up pictures of Willett’s property, urging the BOC to deny her application.
“I just don’t see how this could not have a negative impact,” said Bottomley.
While the BOC denied the conditional use application, Commissioner Riden reminded the crowd that under the current zoning ordinance, Willett still has the right to host certain commercial events, as long as it’s an event for 50 people or less. Private events can also be held at the property at any time, with no limits on the number of people who can attend.
“She will have the same rights as everyone else,” said Riden.