BOC increases regulations on special events

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The Henry County Board of Commissioners tightened up regulations regarding property owners in residential districts who host special events for outside groups and the public.

The action came after a number of residents on Rocky Creek Road complained about a property owner there who has had events nearly every weekend for several months and the nuisances that come with them.

Planning and zoning director Daunte Gibbs told the board that the ordinance in its previous form allowed virtually unlimited special events in an RA (residential agricultural) zoning district, provided a special event permit was obtained from the county for each event. Also, the county was legally unable to reject such applications as long as the stipulations were met, and there were few of those.

“As long as they meet the criteria for a special event permit, we don’t have grounds to stop them,” said Gibbs, whose office recommended the ordinance changes and suggested that they would help improve the character of residential areas while minimizing the impact on infrastructure.

The updated ordinance limits an RA property to one special event per month and five per calendar year. The required special event permit remains in effect.

One resident on Rocky Creek Road said the neighbor in question had events every weekend with extremely loud music, and others cited traffic and safety issues. Most of those who addressed the board said the proposed ordinance changes should go into effect as soon as possible.

The host of these events was not named during the BOC meeting, but minutes from the Jan. 12 meeting of the Zoning Advisory Board shows that Drew McCrite requested a conditional use for 3.45 acres at 287 Rocky Creek Road “for a wedding/charity venue.” The property had been used initially for a family wedding and then for numerous similar events for nearly a year.

The property did not have the required road frontage for such a facility, the minutes stated, and would require a variance. A number of Rocky Creek Road residents also spoke out at that meeting against the activities on the site, and the ZAB denied the conditional use request. Gibbs told the commissioners last week that the denial has been appealed, and one resident said 23 permits have already been issued for events at the property in the months to come. Those are not affected by the board’s most recent action and must be honored unless there are code violations or environmental concerns that can be identified.

Commissioner Blake Prince, who presided over this meeting in his capacity as vice chair in June Wood’s absence, cast the lone dissenting vote on the ordinance amendments. He expressed concerns that it was “putting a blanket over the county” instead of addressing the key issues, adding that several residents in the Kelleytown area in his district host numerous events without incident because they have 50-100 acres of land.

“I agree with you folks,” he said to the Rocky Creek Road residents about their neighbor. “What’s going on there is not working.”

Prince said there needed to be something in the ordinance about minimum acreage before he could support it.

It was suggested that the matter be tabled for another look, but more than one commissioner noted that there would be a dramatic increase in permit applications in the interim if that happened. Commissioner Dee Clemmons moved to approve the changes as presented, and that motion passed 4-1.