Event center April 3

The dairy barn on this property owned by Arik and Kyli Miller near Flatville will become an event center if the couple's plans reach fruition. The Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals approved a special-use permit for the property last week.

URBANA — A rural Gifford couple’s dream of turning an old dairy barn into an event center moved closer to reality Thursday night.

The Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals voted to approve a special-use permit for Arik and Kyli Miller at 2079 CR 2600N. While the location has a rural Gifford address, it is closer to Flatville — about a mile away.

The Millers will now have to get a change-of-use permit to allow them to proceed.

The Champaign County Health Department did place one restriction on the site. The couple had wanted to place Porta Potties on the grounds until they saw how the business fared. The health department, however, said the Millers must install a permanent septic system and restrooms one year after opening.

“They were hoping to have a little bit longer time frame to make a major financial decision like that,” Zoning Administrator John Hall said. “To their credit, they’ve figured out a couple different ways they could go. They’re being cooperative, and I think they’re doing a good job of listening to everybody and moving forward.”

Gifford Fire Protection District has also recommended several things for the future event center.

One is the installation of a farm safety tube for first responders.

Gifford Fire Chief Rich McFadden said the safety tube is a program initiated by Carle Rural Ag.

“They will do it free, mainly using Google Earth to kind of plot out the farmstead where they might have” equipment that emergency personnel would need to know about such as an LP tank,  McFadden said.

“It’s a piece of PVC pipe with a threaded cap and has the layout put inside.

They normally put it on a high-line pole.”

The fire department also recommended evacuation maps be located near fire extinguishers so customers know how to quickly exit the building.

The department also urged the installation of exit signs, emergency lights and panic hardware on doors.

Hall said the Millers plan to add a new driveway, and the fire department recommended it be at least 40 feet wide to accommodate a fire truck.

Earlier, the Champaign County Environment and Land Use Committee voted 7-0 to recommend rezoning the property from AG-1 Agriculture to AG-2 Agriculture, which was also approved by the county board.

Zoning staff recommended not allowing parking along the road at the site.

Instead, the Millers plan to add a parking area on 30,000 square feet of land near the barn for parking to accommodate 100 vehicles.

Earlier, Hall said the Millers had “two or three letters” from neighbors supporting the project. Also, Compromise Township officials had said as long as no one parked on the road, they were not concerned about the project.

The property is a 10.3-acre tract. The dairy barn event center will have a capacity for 300 guests.

Arik Miller said earlier the couple plan to call the business Miller Farms Barn.

He said the barn  sat empty for 20 years. In addition to weddings, they would like to host corporate events, family gatherings and other events.

“Things are going along nicely,” Hall said. “(They) did a nice job during the process of dealing with concerns. They have great support from their neighbors.”

dhinton@rantoulpress.com