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Panel still not sold on wedding parties in Afton

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Anyone interested in holding a big outdoor wedding may need to look outside Afton's borders.

Afton Planning Commission continued its discussion of commercial wedding venues during its April 1 meeting.

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The topic of commercial wedding venues was brought up at last month's Planning Commission meeting after the city was approached by residents looking for information regarding permitting and allowance for what City Administrator Ron Moorse referred to as "agri-tourism", or "semi-commercial" - commercial event venues for weddings, graduations and other events and tasting rooms at vineyards.

"I think there's a gap in our code for this type of use," Commissioner Sally Doherty said. "We need to think through how we want to handle those."

One specific inquiry came from Plymouth resident Clare Holderle, who recently bought a home on Manning Avenue and intends to run a wedding facility out of it.

Holderle has submitted a conditional-use permit request to the city.

"I'm not convinced that a wedding venue is 'agri-tourism,'" Planning Commission chairwoman Barb Ronningen said. "That's a whole different thing."

@subhead:Wedding venue concerns

@9on11:Planning Commission has primarily focused its discussions on the event venue issue given it is the area that has raised the most concerns, City Administrator Ron Moorse said.

"The wedding venue has the most questions," he said. "It seems that commercial wedding venue raises those concerns and that's why I focused on that."

Some of the key concerns raised by Planning Commission in relation to the event venues were noise levels, increased traffic, alcohol licensing and food licensing.

"Nowadays, many weddings use dance bands and that sound can carry a long way," Commissioner Dick Bend said. "The neighbors may or may not take kindly to that."

@subhead:'Agri-tourism'

@9on11:In addition to the event venue discussion, Planning Commission held a brief discussion on other possible "agri-tourism" uses including vineyards with wineries on site, apple orchards, educational field days and "dinner at the farm."

"These uses still need to be talked about too," Moorse said, "but, generally they seem okay."

Bend said he would be in favor of looking further into possible "agri-tourism" uses within the city.

"It makes sense to have some uses that make agricultural uses more viable in Afton," he said. "These large parcels will remain large then. But we have to be careful not to have uses that neighbors don't like."

In terms of the commercial winery use, Ronningen questioned what control the city actually does have over permitting and licensing "farm wineries" given that there are state statues and licensing requirements through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

"I don't know how much control we have," she said.

Planning Commission did not take any action during last Monday's meeting, except for requiring additional direction from Afton City Council on how to proceed.

Planning Commission will discuss the topic again at its May meeting.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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