Commission revamps ‘event facility’ regs

Tia Lynn Ivey News

During a lengthy meeting last Thursday, members of the Morgan County Planning Commission voiced frustration over proposed changes to the county’s event facility ordinances. The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) requested changes be considered after hearing numerous complaints voiced by county residents objecting to new event facilities popping up throughout the county.

While the County’s Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend approval for the revised ordinance, they added several stipulations that essentially eliminated the main proposed changes.

“We are trying to fix something that is just not broken,” said Scott Campbell, planning commission member.

“I agree. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” said Connie Booth, who took issue with several of the proposed changes. “Some of these changes just don’t make sense. They seem draconian.”

Among the proposed changes to land on the commission’s chopping block were increasing the minimum lot size for an event facility from five acres to 10 acres, increasing setbacks from 25 feet to 200 feet, increasing road frontage requirements, adding road classifications to restrict eligible locations for event facilities, and removing a regulation exception for gatherings of 50 people or less. None of those proposed changes made it to the Planning Commission’s final recommendation.

The commission was not willing to recommend any of those proposed changes. However, they were willing to unanimously vote to recommend adding a minimum 500-foot distance between an event facility and the nearest neighbor as well as applying the noise ordinance to event facilities. Events would not be able to begin before 7 a.m. or end past 11 p.m. Under the proposed changes, event facility owners would have to notify county staff of any major events 14 days beforehand so the county can schedule someone to be on call in the case of a noise complaint.

John McMahon, a Planning Commission member, initially favored upping the lot size to 10 acres, but backed off that idea after Planner Tara Cooner noted that the commission would not have the authority to grant a variance for anyone whose lot size fell shy of 10 acres under any circumstances.

“We can always agree to less if there are special circumstances,” said McMahon.

“Under our current ordinance, you cannot ask for a variance of the minimum lot size,” pointed out Crooner.

The recommended version will go before the Morgan County Board of Commissioners for further review and discussion before voting to make any proposed changes final.

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