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Residents rise up against N.C. 191 event barn

Neighbors object to a permit for an event barn in a residential area on Bradley Road. Neighbors object to a permit for an event barn in a residential area on Bradley Road.

Thirty residents urged the Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Monday to revoke a permit that a county zoning board issued for an event barn in a residential zone off N.C. 191.


Residents of Bradley Road, Cimarron Forest, Carriage Park, Haywood Knolls and other neighborhoods were objecting to a special-use permit the Zoning Board of Adjustment issued to property owners Bill and Tamra Crane in October 2015. Neighbors Elizabeth and Stan Shelley appealed the decision to the Superior Court and the N.C. Court of Appeals, losing at both courts.
The permit allows the Cranes to rent the barn on Bradley Road for events like wedding receptions, reunions and corporate parties until 10 o’clock at night.
Neighbors said the events would be noisy and that traffic would overwhelm the narrow roads in the neighborhood. They questioned why the county would have an ordinance that allows a commercial use in a residential area. They urged the commissioners to change the land-use code so no other event spaces would be allowed.
Elizabeth and Stan Shelley appealed the Zoning Board of Adjustment decision to the Henderson County Superior Court, which upheld the zoning board decision. The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the county and the Cranes on Dec. 20.
Neighbors raised concerns about parking lot lighting and traffic on Bradley and Country roads and said that the use of alcohol and live music, both permitted uses at the event space, would devalue their property and turn off buyers.
“We’ve received numerous emails asking that this board put this on our agenda for some action,” Commission Chairman Michael Edney told the audience. He met with Shelley and the county attorney. “This board has no authority. The way law is set up the Board of Adjustment is the board that would hear anything to do with this item. From a purely legal standpoint, there’s no reason to put that on our agenda.”
Shelley said the Board of Adjustment refused to consider expert testimony the opponents offered that the party space would devalue neighbors’ homes.
“It started with a hearing that was terribly unfair and then contained blatantly false information,” Shelley said. “They said that the board had concluded that property values would not be hurt. That is not true. It is absolutely false. … The board did not say one word about property values. Therefore, it’s very hard to conclude that property values would not be hurt.”
In two appeals, the court made reference to the zoning board’s finding that appraiser Mark White had provided no “data” to support his testimony that the gathering place would devalue neighboring property.
“After an unjust hearing it should not be this difficult to put things right,” he said.
The event barn issue brought comments from people who live miles away but fear the precedent could result in other rental sites in residential zones.
“We have the privilege of living in the most Christianized county in America,” said Gary Letchworth, a retired minister. “The apostle Paul said, ‘If eating meat causes my brother to offend I will eat no meat as long as the world stands.’” The property owner, he said, should heed the words of Paul and say, “No party barn as long as the world stands.”

Commissioners said while they could not legally overturn the Zoning Board of Adjustment decision, they could order a review of the land-use code.

"This is why the Henderson County Board of Commissioners did zoning," Commissioner Charlie Messer said.

"I don't know that we're able on this board to overturn two court rulings," Commissioner Grady Hawkins said. "However, there have been a number of issues raised here" that the county needs to look at. He suggested that the board direct staff "to look into some of those issues so we have a better understanding whether all the parameters that were laid down are being met."

Commissioner Tommy Thompson said: "I think that we've got a real problem here. I would say that what happens oftentimes is that the community is very complacent until such a time that something gets in their face and you don't know about it and then here we are and there's a problem. ... I feel like our hands are tied but if we can come up with a solution I'll support it."

"We're all somewhat shocked and dismayed that this could have passed," Edney said. What the county can do is revise the zoning code to make sure it doesn't happen again. He said property owners who feel that the party barn has devalued their property are entitled to take their case to the Board of Equalization and Review, which will accept property value appeals until May 22. Commissioners unanimously approved a motion by Hawkins directing the staff to check on compliance with the terms of the permit and act on any violations.