The Pottawatomie County Commission has tabled a decision on a pair of conditional use permits for wedding and event space in a rural area near Rock Creek High School.
Nearby residents are concerned with the high volume of traffic, noise and light pollution the proposals could bring with it to an area that’s in a rural setting.
The first request involves a tract owned by Greg Ferkol at Myers Valley and Loux Roads. The second is from Steve and Deb Swoyer nearby on Loux Road, which multiple property owners have opposed, including resident Faith Peirsol.
“An entertainment venue is not tourism. A wedding venue is not tourism. Using the loophole of a tourism C-U-P, building a party venue in our own backyard is unfair to all the adjoining property owners. It exposes us to trespassing, noise pollution, light pollution, and excess traffic. This area is currently zoned for agricultural residents. We purchased our property because of tranquility and peace. At least six families directly connected to the swearers are in protest. Our way of life shouldn’t be infringed because of one family. I urge you to deny this and allow us to continue living in the peace and quiet of country life,” she said.
(Full audio of the protesting parties can be found below from Faith Peirsol, Layton Thomas and Tyrone Wilkens)
There have been at least 11 residents in the area who are against the Swoyers’ proposed wedding venue. Tyrone Wilkens, who lives directly east of the Swoyers’ property, has concerns with how the county intends to regulate fence requirements and limitations on gathering sizes to protect rights of neighboring property owners. He says some of it was discussed at a planning commission meeting, but not reflected in the minutes.
“We are neighbors that want to get along, but at the same time, it takes both sides of the fence to understand what the needs are, what we’re wanting and what the Swoyers want to represent,” said Tyrone Wilkens.
Tyrone’s wife Amy Wilkens shared concerns with what she calls vague language spelled out in the current conditional use permits for both properties.
“If it’s not written in there that there has to be a fence around it, we’re just going by word of mouth. And I feel like it’s just very vague. How do they say we’re not within 1,000 feet when we have to be within a 1,000 feet to even protest it. Over 60 percent of the landowners within 1,000 feet protested this, and we totally could have gotten more signatures if we would have more time, but we were misinformed on the deadline. We got literally hours,” she said.
Pottawatomie County Planner Stephan Metzger admitted to giving two different timelines to the Wilkens, but stated at Monday’s meeting he was only able to give a day’s notice.
Applicant Steve Swoyer attempted to dispel some of the Wilkens’ concerns when speaking to commissioners.
“The property line she’s talking about was trying to say we are right next to each other, but where the building is at, compared to where their house is at is over 1,000 feet. So I would like to make sure that you understand that Rock Creek High School is sitting just to the south of this, all this property, the lights are on every night around the clock. That is much closer to them than we are. We’re going to do the best we can to make sure the lighting shuts off at 10 p.m. when we do it. The worry about people making it down to their property, there is already existing fence there. It’s there,” he said.
Swoyer was interrupted by Amy Wilkens while speaking to the commission, which led to back-and-forth between the two parties.
A majority of the county commission appeared ready to take action Monday, with Dee McKee motioning to accept the Planning Commission’s recommendations.
“I’ve read this and I’m kind of aligned with what the planning board said. I will make the motion to approve,” she said.
McKee’s motion was later rescinded for lack of a second and Commissioner Greg Riat stated he felt the commission needed more time to review the protests, the language in the recommendations and more.
“Some of you guys are going to like me, some of you ain’t. That’s just how it is. But the best thing I can do and I think all of us, is to read and understand everything presented to us, listen to everybody here and make a competent decision based off the information presented to us,” he said.
Commission Chair Pat Weixelman preferred on each of the requests that a condition be implemented allowing for no outdoor lighting to be permitted. Metzger suggested as an alternative that downward facing lighting be a condition, as a safety measure for possible approval.
Both requests for C-U-P’s were approved 6-2 by the Planning Commission earlier this year and will come back to the county commission on May 23 for consideration. A unanimous vote is required for approval on the Swoyer’s request, since a valid protest was submitted. A single vote against would cause the proposal to be denied.
For the Ferkol’s request, a simple majority would allow for the permit to be approved.
Commissioners will also be considering a rock quarry conditional use permit on May 23 to consider from Mid-State Materials. That request was denied by the Planning Commission and would need a unanimous vote by commissioners to override their decision.