It allows farmers to use their properties to host private events.
Frederick, Md (KM). Legislation to address the issue of farmers using their properties as event venues was introduced on Tuesday to the Frederick County Council. The measure would allow these operations on agricultural land as an accessory use.
“As many of you may recall in the recent past, several event centers have been closed because they were operating outside of our zoning regulations,” said Councilman Tony Chmelik, who introduced the bill. “While some of these were boldly defying existing laws, rules and regulations, some were not aware of the requirements, and I do not believe they were acting maliciously.”
Last year, the county went after a number of farmers who were using their properties to host events, such as weddings, and shut them down. That left many couples without a venue to celebrate their special day.
Chmelik says this legislation, it it passes, would require a farmer who wants to operate an event venue on the side, to seek a special exception from the Board of Appeals. “A special exception avenue also gives adjoining property owners and other concerned citizens a place to voice their objection that they might have, and give them more of a say in the process of any event venue that may go for a special exception,” he says.
It also takes away the site plan approval process, which can get “incredibly expensive,” Chmelik adds.
The bill would require farmers to keep at least 25-acres of their property in agriculture, and any building, or temporary structure used for an event shall be at least 150-feet from any adjacent residential lot, and 50-feet from any other lot line. Capacity cannot exceed 500 attendees, or as determined by the Board of Appeals. The Board will also consider such issues as hours of operation, maximum number of attendees, the frequency of the functions to be held, location and surface type for the access point and parking areas, and water and wastewater access and disposal protocols as acceptable to the Health Department.
The Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the bill at a later date.
“One of the largest benefits I see is allowing farmers to open and operate these venues which will provide them with another source of income,” says Chmelik. “By doing this, it encourages them to continue farming without seeking out tax dollars that allow them to stay in business.”
By Kevin McManus