Scott County is moving to be one of the first in Minnesota to establish specific rules for the use of farms or barns for weddings and other recreation.
Wedding barns and farm wineries and vineyards have become more popular in recent years, so the county wants to add rules for those land uses to the books. At a public hearing Monday, the Planning Commission recommended changes to rules for winery and vineyard operations. As for wedding barns, a new zoning category, the commission delayed action on the proposed standards until June pending further research.
“They were both uses that had been proposed, and we didn’t have anything in our zoning codes,” said Planning Manager Brad Davis. “That’s why it was time to update.”
The proposed ordinances mainly regulate noise, frequency of events and traffic. For wineries and vineyards, the rules actually would become more lenient — including an increase in the allowable number of special events per year.
For wedding barns, two weddings would be allowed per week, and the owner or operator must also live on the property; the Planning Commission asked staff to revisit items on minimum lot size, required setbacks, decibel noise and liquor sales. Another proposed item requires that trained security, such as a sheriff’s deputy or private hire, work on-site after 7 p.m.
After the Planning Commission, the new rules require approval by the County Board.
Wedding barns have been regulated under broader rules for home-based businesses, but Davis said they’re “such a unique use. … It really attracts a lot of people onto the property, primarily on the weekends, so we wanted to make sure we had standards.”
These rustic venues are more numerous in other metro counties, including Washington and Ramsey, where they’ve drawn complaints from neighbors who had chosen rural homes to escape noisy activity.
The only wedding barn with a permit in Scott County is Rubies & Rust, which has operated in Belle Plaine for about five years. The barn would be excluded from new ordinances — essentially grandfathered in — and neighbor Chris Zwart isn’t pleased.
“It’s like having a kegger outside next to your house every Friday, Saturday, Sunday night,” said Zwart, who has owned 20 acres of farmland for almost two decades. “You used to be able to hear a pin drop.”
He added: “Apparently Scott County is so interested in making an extra buck that they’ll let this go on.”
The owner of Rubies & Rust couldn’t be reached for comment.
Another resident, Trisha Edlund of Elko New Market, opposed the permit application for a wedding barn about 300 feet from her home last fall. Edlund conducted research to prove that amplified music would reduce the livability of her home. The permit was rejected.
“I really became alarmed just because of the size and amount of weddings [the owner] wanted to hold,” she said.
Edlund added that a dialogue between prospective wedding barn owners and surrounding residents could defuse some conflicts.
“It greatly reduces the livability of your home. It also reduces the value of your home,” Edlund said. “That is something that I don’t know if [county officials] have taken a look into, either.”
Counties and cities recognize that entertainment venues can economically boost a rural area. And for owners and operators, prices can run between $2,000 and $4,000 a night per rental.
“We don’t want to make it cumbersome for [property owners] if they’re going to make that investment,” said Scott County Commissioner Barbara Marschall. “And then have to abide by very restrictive rules.”