Wedding Venue Discussions Heat Up

0
447
The Northampton County supervisors for 2020 are John Coker, Vice Chairman Dixon Leatherbury, Betsy Mapp, Chairman Oliver Bennett, and Dave Fauber. Photo by Stefanie Jackson.

By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton homeowners on Cherrystone Road, near Cheriton, are opposed to the idea of a noisy and disruptive wedding and event venue opening for business down the street.

The venue would be located on 14 acres of Huntington Farm, a waterfront property owned by Catherine Fulton, of Norfolk, Va., and her four sisters, which they inherited from their parents. The entire property is 200 acres and has belonged to the family for 46 years.

At the first public hearing on the event venue, held by the Northampton planning commission Jan. 7, neighbors voiced concern about issues including noise and road safety.

At a second public hearing, held by Northampton supervisors Jan. 14, the neighbors elaborated on additional concerns, such as the total time a wedding disturbs the neighborhood.

“The reality of living next to an event venue expands beyond that six-hour event window,” said Jennifer Buck, whose home is about 450 feet from Huntington Farm.

“If you use a Saturday wedding as an example, here’s a realistic outline of what the week-of and the days after might entail:

“So beginning as early as Wednesday, you’re going to have commercial-size trucks coming down the road – and trailers – because they’re going to start bringing in your tents, and your chairs, and all your tables and lights.

“And then … maybe on a different day, you’re going to have another commercial-size truck come down and deliver your portable toilets. And then you’re going to have another guy … deliver trash receptacles.

“And then, most likely on Friday … you’ve got people that are coming in, preparing the grounds for the wedding … and you’re going to have a rehearsal. You’re going to have … the wedding planner, the bride, the groom, the wedding party, and their family members.”

On Saturday, “the caterers start to arrive, the bands, the staff members, the DJ, photographers, and then finally you get to the potential 270 guests with 130 cars.”

On Sunday, guests return to retrieve lost items and people come to clean up and break down the tents, tables, and chairs; the trash likely won’t be picked up until Monday or Tuesday, she added.

“All in all, you’re looking at about five days of disturbance for this one, six-to-eight-hour event,” Buck said.

Her biggest concern with the activity before, during, and after a wedding was noise.

There is no natural sound barrier on the site of the proposed wedding venue. Jennifer Buck and her husband, Chris Buck, have said 38 trees in the immediate area were felled by a tornado.

When Huntington Farm’s owners applied for the major special-use permit required for a wedding venue, they stated that noise would be buffered by keeping one side of the event tent down.

“Not sure that a piece of tent fabric is going to block the noise,” Buck said.

Later, Granville Hogg, who also owns property nearby, commented on the noise issues.

“In the past, there has been discussion of a need for sound curtains. I don’t know that anybody’s really aware of what sound curtains are,” he said.

He gave supervisors copies of a brochure for a manufacturer of sound curtains that are used primarily on construction sites.

Hogg raised questions about the county’s position on noise disturbance.

“What does the county think is an acceptable level of noise?”

He also wanted to know “how residents in the area will be compensated for violation of the noise level,” and if violators would treat fines as a “cost of business.”

After repeated violations, “at what point can you refuse or revoke the permit?”

Supervisors will have at least another month to consider Hogg’s questions. They will not vote on the special-use permit without a recommendation from planning commissioners, who will discuss the matter again in February.