URBANA — The Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals recommended the rezoning of a rural Gifford property to allow the start of an event facility, but approval of a special-use permit for the site was continued.
In a 3 1/2-hour meeting Thursday night the board recommended the property owned by Arik and Kyli Miller at 2079 CR 2600N, Gifford, be rezoned from AG-1 to AG-2 agriculture zoning district. That matter was referred to the environment and land use committee, which will meet March 7. If approved there, it would go to the county board for approval.
The special-use permit issue was continued to the March 28 meeting of the zoning board of appeals. The special-use permit would allow the remodeling of existing farm buildings and/or the construction of new buildings to establish the event center as a combination private indoor recreational development and outdoor commercial recreations enterprise.
John Hall, director of the Champaign County Department of Zoning, said zoning staff has an issue with the increased traffic on rural roads that the center would bring.
"We proposed special conditions, and we think they are necessary for approval," Hall said. "Some of the zoning board members agreed with the intent of the conditions but were not happy with the wording."
Hall said he was told the Millers were not happy with the limits on the number of vehicles that would be allowed under the wording. The Millers were not immediately available by phone to confirm those concerns Friday.
Hall said the zoning board did not discuss those limits at the meeting. He said there could be a great deal of discussion on that topic at the March 28 meeting.
Hall said "a couple of changes to the site plan" were made by the Millers, including revisions to the parking lot by eliminating one building they considered putting up.
Zoning officials don’t want there to be parking on the road near the facility due to safety concerns.
"At the staff level we were concerned about the amount of traffic," Hall said. "This thing is designed to have up to 100 vehicles added, and so the question is ... can they just have events any time they want?"
He said some other rural locations have limits based on the time of year due to safety concerns posed by increased farm traffic during the planting and harvest seasons.
Zoning staff proposed those restrictions, but the board did not have time to discuss it Thursday night.
Also up for discussion would be where the increased traffic might be coming from.
"Given the location, I think it could get traffic from the north and south, which is kind of a good thing because maybe that means if all the traffic were not coming from one direction, ... then concerns for farming would be less," Hall said.
He believes the location of the Millers’ property is benefitted by it being so close to a county highway — Flatville Road.
The board will ask the Millers to provide more information about the possible new building they wanted to add, but he said, "That is so speculative, they removed that.
The petitioners did everything they could to address the concerns of the board last night."
Earlier, Hall said the Millers had "two or three letters" from neighbors supporting the project. Zoning officials had talked to Compromise Township officials, who said as long as no one parked on the road, they were not concerned about the project.
The event center would be located in a dairy barn.
"The previous owner has taken good care of the barn. They are thinking that people would want to come out there and have weddings" and other events, Hall said, adding that if the center went over well, the Millers might want to build another building for additional functions.
The property is a 10.3-acre tract that is 3 miles south and 2 miles west of Gifford. It is about a mile from Flatville.