Commission denies permit

Published 9:22 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Lunenburg County Planning Commission voted unanimously following a public hearing Tuesday recommending county supervisors deny a conditional use permit for the operation of a personal services/event planning business for Edward and Patricia Crowling.

Commissioners did, however, unanimously recommend to supervisors approval of a conditional use permit for the Crowlings to rent their property “per the use definition of a short-term rental.”

The Crowlings, who do not live in the area, own 6.44 acres at 1853 Hart Road. The Crowlings built a barn on the property and approached the commission for permission to use the barn as a wedding venue.

According to neighbors Anthony Ehman and Krista Hall, the intentional use of the barn was unknown to neighbors at the time of its construction.

The public hearing opened with an offer to the Crowlings to speak to offer additional information. The Crowlings initially denied the invitation.

Members of the community were then invited to speak regarding the business-event planning permit.

Six people spoke in opposition to the permit. Ehman said in an interview with The Dispatch the focus of the public’s comments were against the business-event planning permit as the short-term rental permit was understood to be by-right and was unlikely to be denied.

Hall, Jean-Marie Craigs, Eric Craigs, John Ehman, Sherry Clark and Anthony Ehman spoke, citing the existing aspects of quiet, peace and safety the area enjoys, noting the proposed wedding venue could change that.

Hall, who owns the property behind the Crowlings, said she and her family can see when the lights are on at the property and will be able to see and hear everything that goes on at the location.

Eric Craigs said he owns the property across from the Crowlings. Craigs said he was concerned with the safety of the surrounding houses and property if weddings were held there.

“I shouldn’t have to worry about my personal property being damaged,” Eric said.

Sherry Clark echoed reflected Craigs’ concerns, noting allowing the wedding venue would be “an endangerment to myself and my children.”

John Ehman approached the podium, noting the application for the permit was new and there were people at the meeting who had been in the area for more than 30 years. John presented a petition with approximately 40 signatures of neighbors in the community stating their concern for the permit.

The planning commission voted first on the CUP for the rental property, unanimously voting to send a recommendation of approval to supervisors, with conditions, including a stay length of no more than 10 consecutive days.

A commission discussion regarding the business-event planning permit followed, sparking a lengthy discussion among the members.

“Lunenburg County absolutely supports businesses,” District Two Representative Tommy Height said. “But this just may not be the right place for it.”

“In (these) situations, we generally try to find a balance, to find a common ground,” Commission Chairman Buck Tharpe said. “We can’t do that here; there is too much opposition.”

The commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of the permit.

“We did everything we were told we were supposed to do,” Patricia Crowling said following the vote. “We wanted to create something for families to enjoy themselves. This has turned into something terrible … we are not bad people. We didn’t want it to turn out to be anything like this.”

Supervisors could set public hearings on both conditional use permits during their March 9 meeting.