CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – A barn some neighbors have dubbed the “party barn” near Chapel Hill is raising questions over what to define as farming and agri-tourism.
Signs dotting Morrow Mill Road read, “Real farmers and rural neighbors against party barn on Morrow Mill.”
The signs include a website, stopthepartybarn.com, aimed at the barn property.
Michael Ekholm is one of those neighbors opposing the barn.
“The ‘party barn’ is directly across the street from us,” he said, referencing what will be the “The Barn of Chapel Hill at Wild Flora Farm” when construction is complete in a few weeks.
Owner Kara Brewer and her husband plan to grow flowers and chestnuts, host field trips and hold floral workshops and weddings in the barn, which is new construction but includes wood from a 1860s barn in New York.
So far, 17 couples have booked weddings there already for 2017 with the first one at the beginning of May.
Plans have carried on despite neighbors fighting it for nearly two years.
“You can imagine when there’s music going on and drinking and laughing and partying going on over there, that it’s going to be like it’s in our yard,” Ekholm said, also referencing what he believes will be an increase in traffic.
Brewer said she understands the concerns and said that all music will be contained inside.
“As I hear concerns, we try to address them to the best of our ability,” she said.
The Orange County Board of Adjustment recently decided The Barn of Chapel Hill is a bona-fide farm where there’s bona-fide farming happening, but the barn cannot be used to host some gatherings, such as weddings, without a special use permit.
“This is pretty huge to say that farms can’t invite visitors. It’s a shame because there’s such value in bringing people out to your place and seeing what you’re doing,” Brewer said.
Ekholm said. “This is a wedding venue posing as a farm and I’m hoping that the superior court will see it the same way.”
Brewer said, “As soon as we get the written decision, we’re going to appeal to the state with the state agri-tourism statutes.”