Ellis County agents are refusing permission for the Buckeye Barn wedding venue

Margaret Allen

| Hays Daily News

The Ellis County Commission on Monday night denied approval for Leann Zimmerman’s proposal to build a country wedding barn on her farmland north of Hays, but Zimmerman says she hasn’t given up.

“We’re very disappointed, but I think we’ll move forward in some way,” Zimmerman said after a long meeting at the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main. “I know that at this point.”

“In any case” she and her husband Jayme Zimmerman will try to build the wedding barn “in the same place”.

Zimmerman filed for permission for a proposed 7,200-square-foot building to house 350 people on 4 acres 6 miles north of town on Buckeye Road.

Neighbors within 5 miles of the proposed event center showed up at the regular session of the Ellis County Commission Monday to oppose the wedding barn.

More than 20 property owners turned down the project based on a petition handed out by Sarah and Dustin Shubert, 18-year-old residents of 1660 Buckeye Road, who live half a mile from the proposed facility.

“That is far from welcome,” said Sarah Shubert. “I went door to door; it is far from welcome by those residents who live out there like me.”

The neighbors, who do not live within the 1,000-foot radius required by the district law for notification, spoke out against the project for various reasons.

According to this, Ellis County already has many wedding venues; it will bring heavy traffic to their rural homes; Traffic and potential drunk drivers create an unsafe environment for their families and property. People attending the parties pose a fire hazard if cigarette butts are thrown. It poses a danger to children playing at the nearby Buckeye School. There are no plans for a sprinkler system in the building. Heavy commercial water consumption could endanger the rural water supply for households.

Neighbors said Buckeye Road is already heavily used by oilfield trucks and other heavy equipment.

Commissioners reject motion

After more than an hour of discussion from all sides, the commissioners unanimously rejected the motion.

Commissioner Butch Schlyer said it was neither a building nor a safety issue, although it could attract drunk racing cars up and down Buckeye Road and possibly even be a noise nuisance when there are concerts.

“The potential for a nuisance exists in this type of business as it is perceived by these homeowners,” said Schlyer. “They have invested in their homesteads, they have invested in life in the country, they have a right to this peace and solitude. You definitely do. And I definitely want to protect this right. “

The other side

In defending the Buckeye Barn motion, the Zimmermans found that the surrounding land was agricultural and commercial and non-residential. Jayme Zimmerman said he and other farmers were unhappy years ago when people started buying land for houses.

The Zimmermans noted that the neighbors in the nearby Keith Werth building have not expressed any concerns about commercial operations. These companies at various times included an oilfield service company that handled hydrochloric acid and other hazardous materials, and a landline company that handled regulated Class 1 explosives.

Regarding water issues, Leann Zimmerman pointed out that the rural waterfront application is not for commercial or residential use, but rather whether it is for human or animal use. She said she has since clarified with the district that her application is for commercial use, citing Werth’s commercial use.

She also said she was following orders from the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office, which told her the building must meet the state’s minimum codes. Ideas for meeting commercial water needs and fire safety include building a storage tank or pond and a fire fighting wall.

“I’m doing what I’ve been told so that # 1 is the safety of our friends and family, no matter where we are in a building,” Zimmerman said.

She said the facility would keep locals in the area to celebrate their weddings, create jobs, and bring non-local diners to restaurants and motels in Ellis County.

Zimmerman said she bought the property at a public auction and the neighbors could have bought the property if they had avoided commercial use.

Better location?

Commissioner Neal Younger sympathized with residents, saying he had a commercial gym across from his rural home in the Munjor area and that the garbage was a nuisance.

Younger asked Zimmerman to work with the neighbors to find another location, possibly half a mile north of the proposed one. Zimmerman agreed.

However, when asked, Dustin and Sarah Shubert said later in the meeting that the neighbors would still be against it.

“People don’t want it around,” said Dustin Shubert. “There has to be a better place somewhere.”

In defending her request for approval, Zimmerman cited the three county’s event centers located on the Ellis County Fair Grounds west of the city on Interstate 70 and the US-183 bypass.

“I just want the same chance that we have in the Schenk building, which is out there in the country, that the commissioners are the ones who rule over it,” said Zimmerman. “As an individual, I want to have an equal opportunity in the country to have a beautiful wedding venue.”

Barn wedding venues are few in the area, with the closest being in Scott City, Newton, and Salina, according to Zimmerman and others.

Planning committee OK would allow

The Ellis County Joint Planning Commission approved the permit at its January 27 meeting after a public hearing at which some neighbors spoke out against the project.

David McDaniel, chairman of the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission, told commissioners Monday evening that Zimmerman had correctly followed all of the necessary steps to apply for approval.

“We haven’t found any reason not to approve this,” McDaniel told the County Commissioners.

However, Schlyer denied the thoroughness of the Joint Planning and Zoning Commission when considering the application.

Referring to the planning committee’s own list of approval requirements, Schlyer ticked each of the eleven requirements and commented on each requirement that they had not been addressed to his satisfaction.

He cited a conflict with residential land use; an unreasonable burden on transportation, resource and service facilities; Debate whether there is a lack of such facilities; whether it is in line with the county’s comprehensive plan and would improve its implementation; and how it benefits the health, safety and well-being of the public.

“I’m sure it meets the conditions under which the permit is granted, but it will bother the homeowner,” said Schlyer. “So there are a lot of issues here to deal with.”

What’s next

After the meeting, Leann Zimmerman said she expected to file a new proposal with the planning committee soon.

“Under Ellis County laws, you can wait a year for the same site,” she said, “or you can have it near that site and take it back out right away.”

How close

“One foot,” she said. “You have the right.

“It’s an event center. I’ve had so many people who want weddings, want a nice place to get married that it’s something that is needed here. It’s been on my bucket list for a long time to do this. I know other people who have done it and it’s just something I wanted to do. “