By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved a special exception for Dawn and Pat McDonald of Boyceville to operate an agricultural entertainment business called The Yellow Barn in the Town of Hay River.
The Board of Adjustment held a public hearing for the special exception August 25.
Agricultural-entertainment was recently added to Dunn County’s zoning code as a special exception to allow for a non-farm use of farm property.
The Yellow Barn, which will be used as a venue for weddings, reunions and corporate gatherings, is located on county Highway FF across the road from The Grain Bin north of Wheeler.
The McDonalds purchased the property in 2012 and have been working to fix up the barn as a venue for events since then.
“We’re ready for the next step,” Dawn McDonald toward Board of Adjustment members.
BOA member Phil Steans wondered about food preparation.
The 2016 contract that will be signed by people renting The Yellow Barn requires them to provide their own caterer so that the liability for food preparation falls on the hired caterer, Dawn McDonald said.
Steans also wondered about a license for serving alcohol.
If people want to serve alcohol at their event, they have to provide their own licensed bartender, Pat McDonald said.
“They bring their own alcohol and their own bartender. We are only supplying the building,” he said.
The Yellow Barn will be rented out for events from May until October each year, Pat McDonald said, noting that while the barn has electricity, it is not heated.
The silo next to the barn has been closed off, and it is there “for looks,” he said.
The Yellow Barn has 2.5 acres available for parking. The neighbors have been helping with the carpentry and the cleanup, Pat McDonald said.
“It’s almost ready to go,” he said.
The maximum capacity identified in the contract is 225 people. The building is bigger than that, and it technically could hold more people.
“But we set it at 225 so it is manageable,” Dawn McDonald said.
For every 75 people, one Porta-Potty must be supplied, she noted.
The property also has a new well for potable water, Dawn McDonald said.
The property has the proper clearances for the fire department to get in and out as well, she said, and smoke detectors have been installed in the building.
The contract allows people renting the facility to get into the building on Friday and to have access to the building until Sunday, allowing time for decorating and rehearsals for weddings and for cleanup of any decorations.
The Yellow Barn will be rented out a total of four times per month from May through October, Dawn McDonald noted.
Neighbors are situated near the property line by the parking area, said Juliet Fox, chair of the Board of Adjustment.
Fox wondered how much noise would be generated by the events held at The Yellow Barn.
Pat McDonald said the barn has a height of 26 feet from the floor to the ceiling, and the big interior space would help to keep the noise from a band inside of the building.
A fence encloses the property so guests will not be able to go the wrong way on their way out, he said.
Bob Colson, Dunn County zoning administrator, said he had done research on other venues, and that when businesses of this type are located next to a residential area, the limit is set at around 60 or 65 decibels at the property line.
At other venues where there is a decibel limit, if a complaint is made, law enforcement officers take a decibel reading at the property line, and if the noise exceeds the limit, then the event is stopped, Colson said.
Dunn County does not have a noise ordinance.
A vacuum cleaner is around 70 decibels. Normal conversation is about 50 decibels. Rustling leaves are 20 decibels.
According to the contract, the events must stop at 11 a.m., Pat McDonald said.
Eric Turner, the director of Dunn County Economic Development Corporation, said he was in favor of the Board of Adjustment granting a special exception for The Yellow Barn.
Agri-tourism/agri-entertainment will have a positive effect on the local economy and will draw visitors to Dunn County, he said, noting that wedding guests from out of the area will need somewhere to stay and meals while they are here.
Russell Hitz, chair of the Hay River Town Board, said the town board had met August 10 and had unanimously recommended that the Board of Adjustment approve the special exception.
The McDonalds’ business “will be good for the township,” Hitz said.
Fox, the chair of the Board of Adjustment, wondered if a special exception should include a condition about installing a septic system.
If The Yellow Barn becomes “wildly successful,” and the McDonalds want to install a septic system, what is the procedure? Fox asked.
The size of a septic system would be determined according to the type and size of the events and would be approved at the state level, Colson said, adding that the county cannot be more restrictive than the state.
The Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously approved The Yellow Barn application for a special exception to hold agricultural entertainment events.
The Board of Adjustment also set the following conditions: that the business stay within the parameters set in the application for a special exception; that the decibel level from events not be over 65 decibels at the property line; that an event plan be filed with the planning and zoning office for each event; and that a copy of the temporary use annual permit be filed with planning and zoning.
In addition to Fox and Steans, Board of Adjustment members include Dorothy Enger, Tim Lienau and Diane Morehouse.
Morehouse was absent from the meeting.
In other business, the Dunn County Board of Adjustment:
• Approved an application from Haas Sons, Inc., Thorp, to operate a concrete redi-mix plant in the Town of Menomonie on state Highway 29. The BOA approved the special exception with the conditions that Haas Sons obtain a right-of-way easement from the Dunn County solid waste department; construct a six-foot berm with shrubs planted on it; have hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 6 a.m. to noon on Saturdays; comply with state Department of Transportation requirements for restoration of the ditch and installation of a culvert within one year. Neighbors in the area were opposed to the redi-mix plant because the smell from the landfill, noise from crushing aluminum cans from the recycling center and the sound of back-up beepers from both operations already disrupts their lives. The neighbors said they did not want another business adding to the disruption.
• Postponed until no later than September 15 a public hearing on an application from Govin’s LLC to operate agricultural-entertainment events at a farm in the Village of Rusk. The BOA did not receive a formal recommendation of whether to approve or deny the application from the Red Cedar Town Board, and Dunn County’s zoning ordinance requires that the town board’s recommendation be taken into consideration. A number of neighbors attended the meeting, and one woman told newspaper reporters she had filed a formal complaint with Dunn County because Govin’s LLC had already been holding weddings at the farm without a special exception to do so. The Govin’s website lists The Weddin’ Barn as being available for events. Deb Gotlibson, a supervisor on the Red Cedar Town Board, told reporters that the town board had voted four to one to recommend that Dunn County deny the request for a special exception.