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More than 70 residents of Dry Ridge-Mt. Zion Road and surrounding areas do not want an outdoor event venue for a neighbor.
These residents have signed a petition asking the Grant County Board of Adjustments to deny a request by Larry and Mary Creekmore granting a conditional use permit to operate the venue on property they own at 242 Boltz Lake Road in Dry Ridge.
Mary Creekmore doesn’t understand why the community wouldn’t welcome an event facility that could showcase the beauty of the area and bring business to local hotels and restaurants.
“This isn’t going to be a drunken brawl,” she said. “We had one wedding that we received permission from the county to have and we made some mistakes, but we learned from that one experience.”
According to the Creekmores’ web site (www.LakeRidgefarms.com), the 51-acre property can be rented for weddings, corporate functions, receptions, retreats, reunions, banquets, fundraisers, parties, wakes, pumpkin carving and fall festivals.
The Creekmores lived in a large, brick home on the property until it was destroyed by fire on March 15, 2011. The blaze began in the chimney and the home was a total loss.
The Creekmores razed the burned out shell of a home. Since then, Mary said they had upgraded the fencing, as well as done work to improve the property’s four large barns, including the addition of a bride’s room where brides and their wedding party can have privacy.
Neighbors noticed a large tent and a lot of vehicles at the property last fall.
“I just thought that it was nice they must be hosting a family wedding or something. I had no idea they were making a business out of it,” said Kelly O’Connor, an adjoining property owner.
It wasn’t long after the wedding that O’Connor and other neighbors noticed a sign placed on a board fence at the end of the driveway announcing LakeRidge Farms, an outdoor event venue, with a grand opening on Oct. 6, 2012.
Neighbors got concerned and began asking questions, including filing Open Records Request for documents filed with the county concerning use of the property.
“We’re concerned because they had events before they even got the proper permits,” said Sherry McHugh, an adjoining property owner.
Residents said when the first event, a wedding held last September, occurred they didn’t have an issue with the farm being used for a family function, but for it to be a business generating a lot of traffic, they do have concerns.
“If it’s your own family farm and you’re just having people over that’s one thing, but if it’s your business that’s different,” said O’Connor.
Neighbors who signed the petition, said they are concerned about the amount of traffic generated on Dry Ridge-Mt. Zion Road, as well as noise, alcohol sales in a dry county, litter and negative impact on property values in the area.
“Just from the wedding held on the property, the car lights went on, then they went off. They were shining into my house and it was on and off and the wedding lasted until 1 a.m.,” said McHugh.
Creekmore said the family made some rookie mistakes when they hosted the first event, but the neighbors never brought their concerns to her.
“We faced the band in the wrong direction. We went over on the next road and realized it was too loud, which has prompted us to cut the music off by 11 p.m. We learned what we did wrong and won’t do it again,” Creekmore said.
According to the Creekmore’s conditional use permit application, their plans include:
• Hold well conducted events, which will be supervised at all times by the owners or their employees.
• Conduct weddings with a noise level for music within reason to be cut back or off by 11 p.m.
• All catering to be done by licensed caterers. No cooking on premises unless the caterer needs to grill or warm food.
• LakeRidge Farms’ owners or its employees will not handle any alcoholic beverages at these venues.
O’Connor and McHugh said, after looking at the events’ web site, which shows guests at the open house drinking alcoholic beverages, they are even more concerned about the public’s safety.
“We purchased a lot in 1999 for the peace, view and serenity,” said McHugh.
“I own property and plan to live there some day, but if this goes through then I’ll sell it,” O’Connor said.
The women said their issues with the Creekmores were not personal.
“To me, this is a commercial venture no matter what they say and it’s detrimental to people living in the area,” O’Connor said. “I hate every second of this. I don’t want to be in anyone’s business, but for this to become what they want it to (according to their web site) I have concerns.”
“I’m not out to hurt anyone and we’re not bad people. I understand that people need to make a living, but you need to do it the right way and in the right spot,” said McHugh.
Creekmore said it was never her intention to make her neighbors mad.
“There’s no way I could build a house back in that spot, so all we were thinking was what we could do with the property,” she said.
Creekmore said she received encouragement from some elected officials.
“For us, this started last March when we talked to Becky Ruholl and Judge Link,” Creekmore said. “We’re not in this for a fight. It’s just strange that other people with influence in the community can have things without a problem.”
• March 15, 2011 – Creekmores home burns at 242 Boltz Lake Road.
• March 2012 – Mary Creekmore said she spoke with Grant County Judge-Executive Darrell Link and Becky Ruholl, Grant County’s planning administrator, about using the property for an outdoor event venue.
• September 2012 – wedding on property
• Oct. 6, 2012 – grand opening of LakeRidge Farms, an outdoor event venue.
• Adjoining property owners question whether the area is zoned for an outdoor event venue and whether the Creekmores have requested a zone change or conditional use permit.
• Oct. 19, 2012 –Link signs an application for a text amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance for an outdoor recreation for social events and other gatherings excluding any commercial activity (such as flea markets or craft fairs).
• Nov. 7, 2012 –Creekmores file for a conditional use permit to allow an outdoor event venue in an Agriculture-1 zone.
• Nov. 21 –Ruholl sends adjoining property owners a letter notifying them that a hearing in scheduled for Dec. 10.
• Dec. 10 – Twenty neighbors show up for meeting, but meeting was cancelled.
• Dec. 14 – Kelly O’Connor files formal complaint.
• Feb. 13 – Joe Taylor (in absence of Ruholl, who is on maternity leave) sends letter to Creekmores telling them to stop operating a business on the property until they had a hearing before the board of adjustments. Taylor told the Creekmores to resubmit an application by Feb. 18 so their case could be heard March 18.
• Feb. 27 – Adjoining property owners receive letter notifying them the board of adjustments would hold a hearing on the conditional use permit at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 11 at the Grant County Courthouse in Williamstown.