A new event venue will soon be available near Hillman.
Tuesday, after a lengthy discussion, the Morrison County Board of Commissioners approved an interim use permit (IUP) request for Samuel and Mindi Jennings to establish a limited rural business. The venue will be open from May through October, and will be available for weddings, family reunions and more, according to the Jennings’ request.
Previously, the Planning Commission held a hearing for the request. It eventually recommended to the Board that the request be approved with two conditions: that the IUP is valid as long as property is owned by the Jennings, and that they arrange for an initial driveway review with the Morrison County Public Works Department. The latter is required to be renewed annually.
Land Services Director Amy Kowalzek brought the request to the County Board, Tuesday. They had several questions regarding conditions that were not attached to the approval.
“This is probably going to sound like I’m not in favor of you folks doing this and that is not true,” said Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski. “I just have some questions, that I might be confused on.
“There was no talk about porta-potties,” he continued. “Excuse me, there might have been talk at the Planning Commission about a porta-potty, there was no conditions on a porta-potty.”
While he said he was confident they planned to have porta-potties available on site, he asked if that needed to be included as a condition. Eventually, the Jenningses plan to put a structure on their property that will be the primary area for hosting events. At first, however, they plan to use commercial tents.
Kowalzek said, within the performance standards for a limited rural business, there are guidelines regarding a septic systems to accommodate the “anticipated flow and waste strength.” That will cover the eventual structure.
While tents are used, she said it was worth a discussion in terms of adding porta potties as a condition, as well as hand washing facilities.
The Jennings hope their new venue will be able to accommodate 150 guests.
“If we’re talking about 150 people, we probably have to have one, or two, or three, or four, or whatever, a number of porta potties,” Jelinski said. “I certainly believe that you would have some sort of a handwashing station.”
Kowalzek reminded the Board that it had the ability to add conditions.
On the same line of thinking, Commissioner Randy Winscher noted that there will be no overnight accommodations at the site. However, he noted that the Jenningses listed the use of porta-potties and hand washing stations in their request.
“Those are the details that the applicant provided,” Kowalzek. “So, that was the spirit in which and the information in which the Planning Commission recommended approval. Unless they’re conditioned, I don’t have the ability to hold them to any of that.”
Commissioner Mike Wilson pointed out, however, that he didn’t think it was necessary to include a specific number of porta-potties needed in a potential added condition. Instead, he said the county should establish a condition regarding how many facilities are needed depending on the number of people at a specific venue or event.
He said he didn’t want the Jennings to have to rent a porta-potty on weekends when they’re not hosting an event. He also said he didn’t think it was necessary for them to have two available if they were hosting a small event with 10 people, for example.
“I think it will all work itself out,” said Commissioner Mike LeMieur. “If they don’t provide access to going to the restroom, they’re not going to have anybody come there.”
“I think it would be to the best to just put ‘provide porta-potties as needed,’” Winscher added.
Another issue Jelinski brought up was noise. He said it was brought up at the Planning Commission that there will likely be bands or DJs playing music at some of the events. He asked how the couple planned to ensure it did not bother neighbors.
“Whether that band is a one-person DJ operation or whether that’s a five-piece rock and roll band, there really was nothing clear to me as to what we’re going to do for noise,” he said.
Board Chair Greg Blaine said, in the spirit of consistency, there is also an annual event held in the same neighborhood that features several loud vehicles and people riding around on ATVs. In that case, he said the Board never discusses the noise factor when considering approval for that event.
It was noted in the Jennings’ request that they plan to stop playing music at 11 p.m. However, he said that did not address how loud the music could be, and it was not covered by a condition in the IUP.
Jelinski added that, even if the music or entertainment ends at 11 p.m., that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will leave the venue at that point.
“I’m here to tell you, you cannot blink your eyes and 150 people are gone,” Jelinski said. “It doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. Whether that shutdown is 11 o’clock, I guarantee you they’re still there at 11:15 p.m. My guess is at 11:30 p.m. you still have people on the ground. You probably have people on the grounds at midnight.”
He added that the noise was a concern among some of the neighboring property owners.
Kowalzek said the 11 p.m. stipulation, like the porta-potty, was in the “findings of fact” portion of the application. As such, her office would not be able to control whether that was being followed unless it received complaints. She said it would be worthwhile to consider a condition stating 11 p.m. is a “hard shutdown” time.
However, Blaine said he wanted to be careful to not micromanage the business. If the music or entertainment ends at 11 p.m., he didn’t want to say everyone had to be out of there five minutes later and could not hang out and mingle for a while after.
“I don’t care if they have another beer and stay until 12:30 or 1 o’clock, or 2 o’clock like a lot of drinking establishments within the county,” Blaine said. “It’s also stated in here that there’s no overnight, so these people will leave.”
Kowalzek said the standard the applicant needs to meet is that the request will not be “detrimental to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity.”
As such, there are some noise standards in place.
She asked the Jenningses to address how they planned to overcome having any potential noise issues.
“I know as part of the contract that we plan on when we do have somebody reserve, a wedding, let’s just say, part of the contract will be those things very clearly in writing,” Mindi said. “Music, DJ, that ends at 11 p.m. They have to agree to that. “
Another portion of the contract is that there is a wedding or event planner on site who will oversee that all standards and stipulations of the contract are being honored.
She said some of the considerations are that music has to be off by 11 p.m. and tear-down must be completed by midnight. Mindi said they don’t really anticipate people will try to hang around for “hours upon hours” afterward.
“We don’t do that ourselves,” Samuel said.
Wilson said he liked the fact they planned to have a contract which required all of these scenarios are avoided. While he was in favor of the porta-potty condition, he said he initially said he could go either way on the 11 p.m. condition.
Mindi asked what conditions are set on other event centers within the county.
Kowalzek said the most common conditions included music being shut off at a certain time, prohibition of fireworks, that they have regular garbage service and pickup, sanitary facilities and parking.
Mindi pointed out that she and her husband were the ones who suggested the 11 p.m. shutdown time for music, so they wanted to stick to that.
“We truly want to be good neighbors,” she said. “We’re not out to create an unwelcome environment for anyone.”
Samuel added that measures had already been taken to mitigate noise. Though it wouldn’t have an immediate impact, he said they have planted over 1,000 trees on the property already. He also said the event area is located in a valley, rather than on a hillside, so that noise doesn’t carry as much as it might otherwise.
Wilson later decided the 11 p.m. condition might be beneficial to the Jenningses.
“That way it gives you an out, too,” he said. “If people want to go you can say, ‘The county says we have to be done by 11.’ That way everybody knows exactly where we’re at here.”
Jelinski also questioned whether or not they would stick to the premise of only hosting one event per weekend. He reiterated, again, that he supported the business, but he wanted to ensure some of these issues did not turn into complaints down the road.
“I think it’s difficult to start up a new business the way it is,” LeMieur said. “I, personally, don’t want to put any more wrenches in their spokes if I can at all possible do that. They seem like a great couple that are doing their best to provide the best for their neighbors.”
Blaine said he did not want to put too many parameters on an organization or individual who wants to start business. He likened putting a limit on the number of events they could hold in a weekend to telling Walmart they could only sell so much of a certain product in a given week.
“If they are the consummate professionals and find that they have the ability to do a wedding on Friday night and a family reunion on Saturday and a Gospel church revival on Sunday afternoon, hallelujah to you,” Blaine said.
Ultimately, the Board unanimously approved the request with the two conditions initially proposed by the Planning Commission, along with a condition that porta-potties must be provided and all music and entertainment must end at 11 p.m.
“This is a good thing for business, it’s a good thing for the county,” Blaine said. “I’m not willing to hamstring you and say you can only do this.”