Foes say business, area a bad marriage
Mesa County commissioners Tuesday approved a proposal to create a venue for weddings and other private events in a heavily farmed area of East Orchard Mesa, despite a chorus of objections from neighbors.
The board voted 2-1 to grant a conditional-use permit to Donna Hindman, who owns a two-acre parcel at 3385 C Road and is seeking to open The Wedding House. Commissioner Steve Acquafresca dissented.
Hindman said after the meeting she appreciated the commissioners giving her a chance.
“I was really happy with the decision and pleased with their objectivity,” she said, adding she hopes to open the venue next spring.
Several neighbors expressed dismay with the commissioners’ decision and began discussing documenting noise they expect to come from receptions and parties at Hindman’s house.
Mike Grode said commissioners failed to give enough consideration to the fact his home sits just 100 feet to the west of Hindman’s. He and other neighbors weren’t appeased by Hindman’s promise to build a soundproof backdrop on the western edge of her property to mitigate the noise.
“Every time there’s an event now we’re going to hear it,” Grode said.
Acquafresca called the wedding venue a “poor fit” for the neighborhood, saying it conflicts with farmers and orchardists who spray pesticides on their crops and fruit trees.
“The right-to-farm law does supersede the right of a small property owner to start a commercial business,” Acquafresca said.
Commissioners Janet Rowland and Craig Meis, however, downplayed concerns expressed by neighbors. They noted that Hindman will be able to ensure events are running smoothly because she will be living on site, and that planning staff will review her permit a year after the first event is held.
The board relaxed many of the conditions recommended by the Planning Commission and planning staff that would have more strictly limited the days and hours of operation and the location of amplified music.
Noise and traffic created by the venue appeared to be the top concerns of neighbors who testified during a hearing that lasted nearly four hours.
“This isn’t just a cute little wedding house. This, in every sense, is going to be a party house,” said Steve Bouricius, who said he has farmed on East Orchard Mesa for more than 30 years and compared allowing an entertainment venue in an agricultural area to “allowing a chicken farm on Main Street.”
Jennifer Zadrozny, who lives on C Road, said the two-mile stretch of C Road between 32 and 34 roads is already dangerous because of the hills and dips it contains and drivers who speed up and down it now.
“I’m concerned that one more event, one more drunk driver, is too much for the road to handle,” she said.
Hindman told commissioners she was willing to compromise and work with surrounding property owners and vowed that events would not get out of hand. She promised to give half of the security deposits to neighbors affected by noise or intoxicated patrons.
“It’s not my intention to bother people or be an annoyance,” she said. “I just want to have a place and run a business in this economy.”
The Wedding House is the second venue to take advantage of a land-use code change approved by commissioners in December. The change allows owners of agriculturally zoned properties to have weddings, wine tastings, business retreats and other events on their land. Canyon Wind Cellars near Palisade was granted a permit in May to build a facility for weddings and other private events.