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Special permit for tourism-related operations studied

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - The business seeing the biggest growth in Bullitt County over the past couple of years has been wineries.

But could their future be in danger without proper zoning changes?

Bullitt County planning assistant administrator Roanne Hammond has been studying ways to protect these businesses.

One solution could be to allow wineries, and other like establishments, to apply for an agri-tourism conditional-use permit through the Board of Adjustment.

Her concern is that some of the three local wineries are now offering more activities, such as live entertainment. That has drawn a few complaints to zoning officials.

Without a conditional-use provision, business owners could be required to acquire a zoning change to commercial, which would be costly and time consuming.

Hammond said the agri-tourism permit is something being implemented in other counties.

Besides the wineries, Hammond mentioned a business such as the Slow Poke Farm on Cedar Grove Road. The owners have a live working farm that is home to school field trips, antiques and special events such as dinners and car shows.

Planning attorney Rob Flaherty said farms continue to operate in agricultural zones; however, when they do more activities, such as concerts, offering rental facilities and dinners, there could be a problem.

He agreed that a conditional-use permit would solve the matter.

This is how other communities are handling a new situation. Such a process would still allow the board to set restrictions on an establishment.

There is a one-time fee for the permit and planning officials are supposed to conduct reviews if there are complaints. The permit could be revoked.

Commissioner Daryl Lee said he hated to cause farmers any additional work or fees just because they have field trips for students.

Hammond said the $125 permit fee would actually help the agri-tourism establishments. Instead of spot zoning, Hammond said they would be legal.

Commissioner Raymon Cope wants to invite the affected business owners to come and discuss the matter.

Flaherty said that the owners would not be forced to apply for a conditional-use permit. However, if there are complaints from residents, they could face problems.

Hill Bleemel, who operates the Slow Poke Farm with his wife, wondered why the owners were not informed of the discussion.

The prime purpose of the 240-acre property is still farming and Bleemel said he really wasn’t in favor of any additional regulations.

“If you start one thing, what’s going to be next?” inquired Bleemel.

Planners agreed to invite the owners to a future meeting to discuss the matter.