November 24, 2022
November 18, 2022
November 15, 2022
A new venue will be available near Hillman soon.
On Tuesday, after a lengthy discussion, the Morrison County Board of Commissioners approved an application for an Interim Use Permit (IUP) for Samuel and Mindi Jennings to start a limited rural business. The venue is open May through October and is available for weddings, family reunions, and more, depending on the Jennings’ needs.
The Planning Commission had previously held a hearing for the application. Eventually, it recommended that the board approve the application on two conditions: that the IUP be valid as long as the Jennings own the property and that they arrange an initial review of the driveway with the Morrison County Public Works Department. The latter must be renewed annually.
Land Services Director Amy Kowalzek submitted the application to the county board on Tuesday. They had several questions about conditions that were not linked to the approval.
“It’s probably going to sound like I’m not in favor of you doing this, and that’s not true,” Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski said. “I just have a few questions that I might be confused about.
“We didn’t talk about portable potties,” he continued. “Excuse me, maybe there was talk of a travel potty at the Planning Commission, there were no requirements for a travel potty.”
While he said he was confident they planned to have portable potties available on site, he asked if that needed to be included as a condition. Eventually, the Jennings plan to construct a structure on their property that will be the primary area for hosting events. First, however, they plan to use commercial tents.
Kowalzek said within the performance standards for a limited rural enterprise, there are guidelines for treatment plants to account for “expected flow and waste levels.” That covers the eventual structure.
While tents are used, she said it was worth discussing in terms of adding porta-potties as a condition, as well as hand-washing facilities.
The Jennings hope their new venue can accommodate 150 guests.
“If we’re talking about 150 people, we probably need to have one or two or three or four or whatever number of porta-potties,” Jelinski said. “I definitely think you would have some sort of hand washing station.”
Kowalzek reminded the board that he had the option to add conditions.
Along the same lines, Commissioner Randy Winscher pointed out that there will be no overnight accommodations on the site. However, he noted that the Jennings listed the use of porta-potties and hand-washing stations in their request.
“These are the details of the applicant,” says Kowalzek. “So that was the spirit and the information where the planning commission recommended approval. If they’re not conditioned, I don’t have the ability to bind them to any of this.”
However, Commissioner Mike Wilson indicated that he did not see the need to include a specific number of needed porta-potties in a potential additional condition. Instead, he said the county should set a condition for how many facilities are needed based on the number of people at a given venue or event.
He said he didn’t want the Jennings to have to rent a portable 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 of 10 people, for example.
“I think it will all sort itself out,” Commissioner Mike LeMieur said. “If they don’t give access to the toilet, they won’t let anyone go there.”
“I think it would be best to just say ‘provide portable potty training as needed,'” Winscher added.
Another issue Jelinski addressed was noise. He said it was raised with the planning commission that some events will likely have music played by bands or DJs. He asked how the couple plan to make sure they don’t disturb the neighbors.
“Whether this band was a one-person DJ operation or a five-piece rock ‘n’ roll band, I really had no idea what we were going to do about the noise,” he said.
CEO Greg Blaine said in the spirit of consistency there is also an annual event in the same neighborhood where several noisy vehicles and people ride around on ATVs. In this case, he said the board never discusses the noise factor when considering approving the event.
The Jennings’ request noted that they plan to stop playing music at 11 p.m. However, he said that does not address how loud the music could be and that is not covered by a condition in the IUD.
Jelinski added that even if the music or entertainment ends at 11pm, it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will leave the venue by that time.
“I’m here to tell you, you can’t blink your eyes and 150 people are gone,” Jelinski said. “It doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. As for the closing being at 11am, I guarantee you they will still be there at 11:15pm. I guess at 11:30pm you still have people on site. They probably have people on the premises at midnight.”
He added that the noise worried some of the neighboring property owners.
Kowalzek said the 11 p.m. condition, like the porta potty, was included in the “findings of fact” portion of the motion. Therefore, unless complaints were received, their office would not be able to check that this was being followed. She said it would be worth considering a condition that says 11pm is a “hard cutoff time”.
However, Blaine said he wanted to be careful not to tamper with the deal. If the music or entertainment ends at 11pm, he didn’t want to say that everyone has to be there five minutes later and can’t hang out and mingle for a while afterwards.
“I don’t care if they have another beer and stay until 12:30 or 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. like a lot of pubs in the county,” Blaine said. “It also says here that there is no night, so these people will leave.”
Kowalzek said the standard the applicant must meet is that the application be “not prejudicial to the use and enjoyment of other properties in the immediate vicinity.”
Therefore, there are some noise norms.
She asked the Jennings to talk about how they planned to overcome potential noise issues.
“I know that as part of the contract that we’re planning, if we reserve someone a wedding, let’s just say part of the contract is going to put those things in writing very clearly,” Mindi said. “Music, DJ ending at 11pm. You have to agree to that. “
Another part of the contract is having a wedding or event planner on site to ensure that all standards and provisions of the contract are met.
She said some of the considerations were that the music had to be off by 11pm and the dismantling had to be completed by midnight. Mindi said they don’t really anticipate people trying to hang around “hours and hours” afterwards.
“We don’t do it ourselves,” Samuel said.
Wilson said he liked the fact that they are planning a contract that requires all of these scenarios to be avoided. While he was in favor of the porta-potty condition, he said he initially said he could go either way at the 11 p.m. condition.
Mindi asked what conditions apply to other event centers in the district.
Kowalzek said the most common conditions are turning off music at a certain time, a ban on fireworks, regular garbage disposal and pickup, sanitation and parking.
Mindi pointed out that she and her husband were the ones who suggested the 11pm cut-off time for the music, so they wanted to stick to it.
“We really want to be good neighbors,” she said. “We’re not out to create an unwelcome environment for anyone.”
Samuel added that noise reduction measures have already been taken. Although it would not have an immediate impact, he said they have already planted over 1,000 trees on the property. He also said the venue is in a valley rather than a hill, so the noise doesn’t carry as much as it would otherwise.
Wilson later decided that the 11 p.m. condition could be beneficial for the Jennings.
“That way it gives you a way out, too,” he said. “If people want to leave, you can say, ‘The district says we have to be ready by 11.’ So everyone knows exactly where we stand here.”
Jelinski also questioned whether they would stick to the premise of only hosting one event per weekend. He reiterated that he supports the business but wants to make sure some of these issues don’t lead to complaints later.
“I think it’s difficult to start a new business the way it is,” LeMieur said. “I personally don’t want to stick a wrench in their spokes anymore if possible. They seem to be a great couple doing their best to offer the best to their neighbors.”
Blaine said he doesn’t want to impose too many parameters on an organization or person who wants to start a business. He compared limiting the number of events they could hold in a weekend to telling Walmart they could only sell a certain amount of a certain product in a given week.
“If they are the consummate professionals and find they are capable of hosting a Friday night wedding 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 motion with the two conditions originally proposed by the Planning Commission, along with the stipulation that travel pots must be provided and all music and entertainment must end at 11pm
“It’s a good thing for business, it’s a good thing for the county,” Blaine said. “I’m not ready to paralyze you and say that’s all you can do.”