Thursday, January 30, 2014

Horse farm event facility approved.

Neighbors divided on issue.

by Jonathan Copsey / The Milton Herald January 27, 2014

MILTON, Ga. – In a unanimous vote, the Milton City Council Jan. 22 approved allowing an event facility on 5 acres of horse farm on Hopewell Road.

The event facility will be restricted to 150 people and will cease "artificial" noises by 10 p.m.

Yellow House Farm owner Jeff Runner came before council to allow him to host special events on his property such as weddings and graduation parties. The events would be held in the buildings currently on the site and the horse farm would remain.

Runner ran into issues from some of his neighbors, notably in the Bethany Oaks neighborhood, in which several homes abut his property. While some neighbors have claimed to enjoy the view of the horse farm, others have expressed concerns about noise and lights coming from the event facility.

Proponents said this was a perfect example of a landowner trying to keep his land, rather than sell to developers.

"There's a huge outcry from the community to preserve as much of our green space as we possibly can," said Councilmember Bill Lusk. "This is an attempt to actively preserve green space in our community."

The venue was first put to council Dec. 2, 2013, and deferred to Dec. 16 for its first presentation. The Jan. 22 meeting was the final approval needed for the property.

One persistent issue with the approval was a holdover from Fulton County's laws. When Milton became a city, it largely assumed Fulton's code of laws. However there was one such law that regarded event facilities in AG-1 (residential or agricultural) districts. That law required the event venue to come back for approval every three years.

Staff said the law may have originated with such county events as the Renaissance Faire.

"At this point, that is the use permit that we have on our books and that is the permit under which Mr. Runner made his application," said Kathleen Field, Milton's community development director.

Neither Field nor the city attorney, Ken Jarrard, said they were aware of similar laws with sunset clauses, and Runner requested it be waived. Council ultimately agreed.

To help address the light issues, Runner suggested using portable barriers that could be moved into place for events and taken down at other times. If the barriers work, he may be able to put up more permanent barriers.

Some residents opposed large plantings and fences along the edges of the land because they said they enjoyed the view given them by the horse farm.

Councilmember Karen Thurman motioned to approve the facility with the addition that Runner and his neighbors would work "in good faith" to come to an agreement about buffers.

"We are trying to put a square peg on round hole, but that doesn't mean the peg doesn't fit in with the city," Thurman said.

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