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Mills River denied Van Oostendorp conditional approval for the wedding venue

It’s back to the drawing board for a proposed Mills River wedding and event venue, but after a tangled close to the June 8th meeting of the Mills River Board of Adjustment to deny the request, both sides expect the problem won’t end there .

Applicant Bartel Van Oostendorp applied for a conditional use permit to operate the wedding and event venue in his former residence at 26 Cook Lane in Mills River in Henderson County.

Neighbors, represented by Asheville attorney Brian Gulden, raised concerns about the music and other noises they heard from the venue.

About a dozen people spoke on June 8, some for and some against the project, with neighbors saying they had no problems from the job site, including noise, and others sharing new concerns about dust and visibility for drivers driving back and forth the site.

Some Van Oostendorp neighbors and employees, such as Rachael Shipley, who handles the booking of the venue, said the operation is keeping the property in its current rural state rather than dividing it into housing development or other use, and praised improvements that it is making made the country.

Following a public comment, the board asked questions and deliberated on both sides before moving a series of motions that ended in votes for approval and denial of approval, both of which failed 2-2.

This constituted a denial of approval, according to former District Court judge Mack McKeller, who advised the board during the hearing. Any approval requires the majority of the board of directors.

Permission assumes that the use does not harm public health or safety, property value, or public improvements. Chairman of the Board Lemkes called these requirements an “insane responsibility” which would then enable the board to implement conditions for the use of the property.

However, Stevens, Van Oostendorp’s attorney, said that approving these requirements means approving the approval.

“In view of the vote this has given, the board of directors, in my opinion, had to accept the application for the conditional use permit,” he said.

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Stevens said they are considering all of their options, including filing a petition with the Henderson County Superior Court to contest the decision, filing a new application under a different use category, or even re-filing the same application if possible.

“My customers are happy with the result and look forward to overcoming this problem,” said Gulden, who represented the group of neighbors who opposed the venue.

But he said it was their expectation that the decision would be appealed.

The June 8 hearing concluded the second iteration of Van Oostendorp’s approval before the Mills River Board of Adjustment after neighbors dismissed the original procedure as flawed.

At the first meeting in September 2020, the permit was approved, but neighbors said they received no notification and were not allowed to speak, and a consent order filed with the Henderson County Superior Court in May referred the hearing back to the city council of the adjustment.

This time the decision went in the other direction.

After his initial application for denial of approval failed 2-2, board member Brandon McGaha made two motions that the use “will not adversely affect the health, safety and welfare of those who live and work in the vicinity of the intended use “and that it is” not detrimental to the common good or detrimental to property or public improvements in the neighborhood “.

Both passed 3: 1. He then filed a motion to deny the permit because it didn’t comply with the city’s zoning regulations, which failed 2: 2.

After this vote, board member Linda Bregartner submitted an application for approval of the approval with a number of conditions, which also failed 2-2.

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Voting completed the process that began at the board meeting on May 18, during which members heard for hours testimony from sound experts and real estate appraisers, as well as from neighbors Van Oostendorp and town manager Daniel Cobb, and interrupted the hearing after midnight.

In addition to the expected noise and impairment of value around the area, a main topic of the testimony was the determination of the use as a warehouse, which is permitted as conditional use in the residential building area encompassing the district.

Stevens said the zone administrator, in this case Cobb, has the ability to make that decision under the city rules.

A particular point of discussion during the meeting was this code, which states that no building may be constructed or altered in order to be used “for purposes other than those authorized for this district” and that the administrator or agent “make a determination as to whether a Use not mentioned can reasonably be interpreted to fit into a use category describing similar uses. “

Stevens said the MR-30 residential neighborhood that encompasses the site allows for single-family homes, churches, camps, and bed and breakfasts, and that it “already allows for a range of uses that are certainly more effective”.

These uses are also places where weddings are held on a regular basis, he said.

Gulden argued at the May meeting that assembly was more appropriate, a use that is allowed in light industrial areas.

And at that meeting, McGaha said that the use did not meet the requirements of the neighborhood and that it was a gathering.

He said on June 8th that he would rather not see the property being converted into a housing estate, but that the use proposed by Van Oostendorp is not permitted over the current development.

More: The residential Mills River wedding venue will vote on June 8th

He asked Gulden to repeat his arguments regarding the zoning and designation of the place as a camp in the application.

Gulden said that because the congregation’s specific use fits the description of the venue and is not listed in the MR-30 district, “this board would ignore the requirement that a particular use be listed in that district in order for it to be allowed . ”

He said the petitioner had other options such as reallocation to keep track of a congregation’s specific use.

In response, Stevens said Cobb interpreted the use reasonably “to fit into that category because, given all the available uses, it is reasonable to say that it would be permissible”.

The board also discussed a number of conditions that would have been part of the permit, including requiring off-duty police surveillance from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m., closing barn doors at 10:00 p.m. when music is playing, Parking for 70 cars and a tree and fence buffer between the property and the neighboring neighbors.

Derek Lacey reports on health, growth, and development for the Asheville Citizen Times. Reach him at or 828-417-4842 and find him on Twitter @DerekAVL.


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