Wedding venue proposal stirs antagonism

Russell Barnes presents his plan for The Grange, a wedding and event venue on Route 385, near Adams Road, in Coxsackie. Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media

COXSACKIE — A proposed wedding and event venue on state Route 385 and Adams Road is drawing ire from local neighbors.

Russell Barnes and Beth Mickle are proposing to use the property, known as The Grange, to host weddings under a temporary tent.

The property includes 79 acres of farmland with a brick farmhouse dating back to the 1830s, a 1910 carriage house, a dairy barn built in 1932 and a chicken coop. None of the buildings will be razed, Barnes said.

The buildings would not be used for the weddings, which would take place under a large tent, and portable toilets would be brought in, Barnes said. Food will be catered from off-site, he said.

Barnes and Mickle are applying for a special-use permit. The area is zoned rural residential, Planning Board Chairman William Whitbeck said, but under town zoning codes wedding venues are permitted.

“If the applicant fills out their application properly and follows the law as written by the town board of the town of Coxsackie and follows state and federal laws, they are going to get their approval,” Whitbeck said at a public hearing for the project. “We don’t write the laws, we just follow the laws.”

If approved, the venue would host 10 to 12 weddings a year, Barnes said.

“There will be wedding events, with anywhere from 100 to 150 people in attendance,” Barnes said. “We allocated 100 car parking spots — we don’t anticipate having more than 150 people coming to weddings.”

Under town law, the hours of operation for wedding venues are noon to 10 p.m., Whitbeck said.

Residents are voicing concerns about noise and music levels during weddings, the number of cars that will be parked on the property and a gravel road built to accommodate golf carts to ferry drivers from their cars to the wedding and back again at the event’s conclusion.

Barnes tried to reassure residents.

“We are trying to maintain the peace and tranquility that everybody comes to live here for. If this does get final approval, I will be doing noise tests to figure out the noise level,” Barnes said.

The configuration of the property will be taken into account when designing the wedding area, he said.

“The speakers would be directed back towards the dairy barn to hopefully muffle some of that sound,” Barnes said. “Worst-case scenario, if anyone is affected by that and they can still hear loud music, the other option we have is to direct the speakers toward forest land.”

An existing tree line is expected to also act as a buffer to absorb some of the sound, he said.

Jeanne Muller, who owns adjacent property, was concerned the sound will be disruptive at her home.

“If you have the music facing the barn, that is facing my property — it is facing my property line and it is facing where we sit outside to enjoy the property that we purchased several years ago and want to maintain,” Muller said. “What I am hearing is that he will face the music towards us.”

Property owner Alex Ritter said he is looking for assurance the wedding venue, if approved, will not negatively impact his own property.

“I will be relentlessly pursuing assurance that how Mr. Barnes and Ms. Mickle use their property does not negatively affect my family’s quality of life or impede our use of our property,” Ritter said.

He said he moved to Coxsackie for the peace and quiet its rural surroundings offered.

“If not done properly, all that we have and have worked for with this home can be snatched away from us,” Ritter said. “While you might see it as a cost-efficient wedding venue for lucky clients to celebrate their wedding vows, from our point of view it is a large white tent filled with blaring music and intoxicated guests, flanked with a gravel parking lot and trailer porta-potties.”

Directing the music at the barn to absorb sound will not be sufficient, Ritter said.

“Solid, nonporous surfaces such as barns do not absorb all the sounds they come in contact with,” he said. “Most will be reflected and/or reverberated in other unintended directions, especially when created by a directional source, such as speakers.”

“This could be a significant nuisance to adjacent land owners,” Ritter added.

Bales of hay will be placed along the side of the barn to aid in sound absorption, Barnes said.

Martina Gallagher owns property across the road from the site’s parking area and is concerned about the number of cars that will be going in and out during events, and the gravel road that will be built, with lights lining it, for golf carts that will ferry wedding guests between their cars and the tent.

Gallagher compared the gravel road to an airport runway.

“I totally object to having a runway with solar lights. It’s tantamount to a landing strip for golf carts,” Gallagher said.

The driveway will be roughly 1,000 feet long and 6 feet wide, according to Barnes.

Barnes said he is willing to work with neighbors to come to an accord.

“We are not a faceless corporation — we are people and part of this is a test to see what the issues are and how we could deal with them. We bought this property with a different intention and those intentions changed. We are now looking at ways to make this property financially viable,” Barnes said.

He declined to specify the original intended use for the property.

The farmhouse is listed on Airbnb at a rate of $345 per night.

The public hearing was kept open and will resume at the planning board’s next meeting Nov. 5.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

(1) comment

Caykey

Surely, when wedding venues were relieved of local zoning/business requirements, nobody understood that some day someone would come up with a plan to have huge OUTDOOR weddings --- a least two a month if he is "successful". Nothing is more annoying than listening to someone else's drunken nuptials. This plan would subject everyone in the community to the racket and the traffic -- right in their own homes. If the law allows this, please change the law!

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