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Rezoning for wedding and events centre denied

Plans for “the newest wedding and event centre in the Peace Country” have been put on hold. The County of Grande Prairie hasn’t approved the rezoning of a property just north of Teepee Creek for a proposed recreation facility on Range Road 42.

The Barn on 42 owners Chyanne and Darryl Smith had originally applied and were approved for a permit to build a barn on their property that could be used for their 10 horses and as a prop for Chyanne’s photography business, Don’t Be Chy Photography. However, County Reeve Leanne Beaupre says they started hearing complaints from neighbours that they were planning on hosting weddings there as well.

“Unfortunately, the people that live around them were not quite as excited about the opportunity for a business like that as the applicants were. They were more concerned about the traffic on those roads, drinking and driving, and just different things of quality of life.”

There were a total of 29 letters of support and 13 letters of concern received.

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The Smiths say they were completely upfront with the County planning clerk they met with, but the full details of what they wanted to do didn’t make it into their permit application. Darryl says they believed the events centre fell under the Country Residential District designation, which includes provisions for small businesses.

“They say that the events centre is out of scope for that CR-5 designation, which kind of confused us. We started to do some research in terms of the other wedding venues that are offered within the County, and those are actively operating under a CR-5.”

In order to build the facility, a $250,000 loan from the ATB Entrepreneur Centre was secured, and an initial investment of $35,000 was made. The County asked The Barn on 42 to apply to rezone the property, saying it would better suit their intention.

“When it’s all complete, the vision is to be able to have a one-stop shop from ceremony to wedding photos to reception in a place that appealing,” says Darryl.

In a report by County staff, it’s noted that their business proposal fits the intent for the Recreational Facility zoning district. However, it was recommended it be refused as it “increases potential for land use conflicts within the area and there are other existing facilities within the County which are specified and should be utilized for special events.”

“From our wedding to a lot of weddings that we photograph, we hear a lot of frustrations about the venues,” Darryl explains, “so we thought this would be an amazing opportunity and kind of put Grande Prairie and the County of Grande Prairie on the map for having a world class facility.”

As it stands, the Smiths can run Don’t Be Chy Photography out of the barn, which is still under construction. They’ll be able to use it for photography purposes, which includes renting it out to other photographers.

“We don’t really have another option,” says Chyanne. “This barn was built solely based on the fact that we thought we were able to do weddings there, which is why we have such a big venue. Any photographer would probably love to have a space like this to shoot it, but we all know that it’s not a space that is needed.”

Beaupre says the County doesn’t want to leave any brides and grooms who have already booked the venue to be left in limbo. Conversations with the Smiths are in the works to discuss potential special permits, and they will be able to reapply for rezoning again in six months should they choose.

The reeve also wants to stress to neighbours who spoke out about the proposal out of concern for children playing on their rural road that they’re not on private property.

“The roads are meant for vehicles and they are not private roads for anyone,” says Beaupre. “Everybody should be very careful and watch their children because the safety of our residents is our utmost concern.”

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