Supervisors uphold decision to deny conditional use permit to Rooster’s Barn Cabin

Published 11:08 am Wednesday, August 7, 2019

After a discussion that lasted more than two hours, the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors affirmed the decision rendered by the Lafayette County Planning Commission to deny a conditional use permit to Rooster’s Barn Cabin.

During Monday’s meeting, the county and Scott Michael, the owner of the barn, presented their cases to the Board of Supervisors. Michael appealed the Planning Commission’s June 24 decision, which enabled the case to be presented in front of the Supervisors.

The stance made by the commission was that Michael’s property was being used for commercial purposes while being zoned as a residential property, thus justifying the denial of the conditional use permit.

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Joel Hollowell, the building inspector for the county, presented an hour-long case which included video and audio evidence of what he had witnessed taking place at Michael’s property. The videos showed buses going in and out of the entrance to the cabin, and also stopping on County Road 100 to drop off or even make U-turns due to congestion at the gated entrance. Other videos showed personal vehicles or ‘Ubers,’ according to Hollowell, dropping off carloads of people on the side of the road, and people walking down a county road with cans of alcohol in their possession.

Other evidence presented by Hollowell included audio taken from neighboring properties to show how loud the music was from distances ranging up to half a mile away. Photographic evidence was used to show how many people were attending one of the parties, including an April 2018 Phi Delta Theta fraternity party that revealed several hundreds of students outside and on the balcony of the cabin.

“There were parties that took place that we weren’t even aware of, and were not made aware of, until the authorities alerted us and the fact that they were receiving complaints,” Hollowell said. “(This) has nothing to do with us hating fraternities.”

Hollowell also noted several other pieces of evidence, including a document from the Secretary of State’s office that showed the property had been filed as an LLC in August 2017. In the document, Hollowell noted that Michael referenced a state code that stands for “all other amusement and recreation entities.” Hollowell’s investigation into the property began after an article was published in September 2018 referencing the barn as “the newest event venue for Oxford.”

A timeline was also presented that showed Hollowell and the County tried to communicate with Michael an offer that would allow them to follow proposed terms, and there would not be any further issue regarding the property. Hollowell claimed he never received confirmation that Michael or his attorney, Mitchell Driskell, received his email with the offer, nor did they reply to accept the terms or voice any concerns over the offer.

Following Hollowell’s presentation Driskell spoke to the Board to present his client’s side of the issue. Driskell continued the position that he took when speaking with the Planning Commission that a short-term, weekend-type rental is not a commercial use and does not violate A-2 zoning or require a site plan approval as a commercial structure. Driskell also reaffirmed his client’s position that they should be grandfathered in due to the property being built without issue prior to the new zoning codes being implemented.

“What we’re to talk about is what the ordinance says and what the land (regulations) say,” Driskell said. “The planning department read the definition of a commercial use at the time that the cabin was built and it was multi-unit apartments, that’s not this, condos, that’s not this, retail, not this, manufacturing, not this, or office. That’s what the land use (regulations) said.”

There were neighbors who live near Michael’s property in attendance and were allowed to speak on the issue. All of those who chose to address the Board were against the parties that were held there, and against the possibility of Board overturning the commission’s initial ruling, including Howard Netterville, who lives at 1001 County Road 100. Netterville’s property is across the street from the barn.

“I see and hear everything that goes on there,” Netterville said. “What concerns me is we have teenage kids who are just starting to drive and they have to go from Oxford High School and back and forth from home or to their jobs. It’s dangerous. That road is narrow and you have kids that are drinking at these parties, driving back and forth. …It’s disturbing. I have to stay up until midnight until the music is shutdown. My kids have to stay up until midnight. We can’t sleep. It’s awful.”

After all discussion and comments were heard, the Board took a vote with District 3 supervisor David Rikard making a motion to uphold the commission’s decision, with District 4 supervisor and vice president of the Board, Chad McLarty, seconding the motion. The vote to deny the conditional use permit was approved unanimously by the Board.