SCANDIA, Minn. (KMSP) - The city council in Scandia, Minnesota voted 5-0 Tuesday night to approve permits for a barn wedding venue that was opposed by some rural residents.
“The opposition did show up but not in the numbers that attended the planning commission meeting,” city manager Neil Soltis said in a statement. “After staff comments by the planner, engineer, fire chief, and sheriff deputy, the mayor asked for comments from the council. Bob Hegland, one of the council members, went first and made a very impassioned speech about the overregulation negatively impacting the growth and future of the community and chastising the planning commission for putting barriers to establishing a business that will bring people to the city. That speech seemed to take the wind out of everyone’s sails and there were minimal comments from other council members.”
The owners of Redeemed Farm, Jeff and Julie Gacek, recently relocated and refurbished the historic barn, moving it three miles to their property just off Highway 97 in Scandia. They now have dreams of hosting weddings and religious retreats and have already launched an event website.
But even though the couple has promised to limit the number of events per year and limit crowd size to no more than 150 people, some neighbors were fighting them.
“I think barn weddings are suitable in the right spot and this is kind of like a square peg in a round hole. It’s just doesn’t fit,” says Curt Peterson, who lives right next to the farm.
A planning commission meeting last week was contentious. Noise, lights and traffic flow were among the concerns neighbors expressed. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has said vehicles will need to enter and exit the property from much quieter Meadowbrook Avenue, and not Highway 97.
The owners insist they want to be good neighbors and will make modifications as necessary to try to keep everyone happy.
“We're grateful, gracious. We have been honest. We have been talking to the city for more than two years,” Jeff Gacek said at the planning commission meeting. “We have been maligned and beat up. It's really tough when people question your character.”